The Second City Totally Likes You is the longstanding revue troupe’s new Valentine offering, themed around love and relationships from Tinder ‘til death do us part. The sprightly touring company brings together a combination of new material and sketches previously performed in Chicago and Toronto. As a skewering of our desperation for human connection and the conflicting desires to let others in and keep them at arm’s reach, it’s often spot-on.
The show’s sketch highlights all deal with this push-pull contradiction in our relationships with each other. A sketch about a man unable to express vulnerability outside of an extremely obnoxious deflection, and the twin perils of saying “I love you” too fast or too slow, showcases Hannah Spear’s manic intensity and Matt Folliott’s stubborn insularity.
Nicole Passmore, who excels at playing confident dames, channels an aunt who demands you reproduce but also can’t wait to terrify you with baby horror stories. An entire “supportive” family’s increasing demands on a bewildered new boyfriend (Andy Assaf) in one sketch, and Christian Smith’s need to repeatedly clink his glass to cause a wedded couple to kiss in another, are both delightfully unhinged.
Possibly the best – and most uncomfortable – extended bit of the show features an Uber driver (Jillian Welsh) accidentally picking up a far more successful ex-boyfriend (Smith) in town for his wedding. The way the actors play with creating a cramped physical space with interactions primarily achievable through the rearview mirror makes the situation even more deliciously awkward. Welsh consistently drew laughs in her roles via an intense, awkward focus that made things feel a little more off-kilter.
The show occasionally ventures into the vaguely surreal to entertaining effect, such as a recurring bit about the deleterious effect of a pair of shoes on a marriage. The company is also particularly good at quick gags, such as the shocking contents of a message in a bottle, or a doctor informing a patient of a diagnosis, Millennial-style.
While I’m generally a bigger fan of scripted comedy over improv, this cast also does especially well in the improv sections, which not only were clever but also raised the energy with the audience.
Passmore’s spontaneous song about a lost love affair had solid rhymes and a smoky belt (the rest of the cast’s singing falls firmly into “comedic” territory), and the whole cast’s simile-based one-liners about their love lives landed well.
The improv game that amused the audience the most was one where Folliott and Smith played the same character, having to speak the same spontaneous answers simultaneously. The actors were in tune with each other, and their ability to make it seem relatively natural was impressive.
I found myself missing the truly biting satire and wider-ranging social criticism that Second City can bring to its comedy; because of this, the show sometimes felt a little small in scope, despite its quality. The closest it got was a sketch about conversion therapy, which was incisive and pointed when it wasn’t name-dropping US politicians. It was a little too on-the-nose when it did, signalling a lack of trust in its audience to get the message.
Overall, though, this offering is fun and sweet; it’s a nice variety box of chocolates, not a chalky conversation heart.
- The Second City Totally Likes You plays at the Second City Mainstage Theatre (51 Mercer St.) until April 5, 2020.
- Shows run Mondays at 8:00PM, Fridays at 10:30PM, and Saturdays and Sundays at 4:00PM.
- Tickets are $20-40 and can be purchased online, by calling 416-343-0011, or at the Theatre Box Office.
- The show features sexual content, and is designed for mature audiences.
Photo of Jillian Welsh, Hannah Spear, Andy Assaf and Matt Folliott by Paul Aishoshi