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Second City’s Everything is Great Again finds laughter in letdowns

Second Company has been blessed with breakout stars of late, but Everything is Great Again makes do finely without a breakout performer on-board.

Paul Aihoshi

3 out of 4 stars

Title
Everything is Great Again
Written by
Brandon Hackett, Devon Hyland, Lindsay Mullan, Colin Munch, Paloma Nunez and Ann Pornel
Directed by
Kerry Griffin
Company
Second City Theatre
City
Toronto

The title of Second City's latest sketch revue is Everything is Great Again, which is a great assurance, except everyone knows that Second City's sarcasm is the most sincere around.

A zippy prelude involves a refugee from a torn-apart country (Michigan), where success is spelled wrong at a spelling bee (by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos). Next, a fella attempting to visit Canada "indefinitely" is quizzed about this country. He thinks the Queen is the animal on the dollar coin and that a double-double equals four. He sees Canada as a promised land, or at least a place better than the one in his rear-view mirror. Is it though? He's informed it's nothing but 24-hours-a-day Murdoch Mysteries here, where passive aggressiveness is confused for politeness and where the leading causes of death are poutine and bike riding.

The point is that Canada has its own hypocrisies and misleading leaders. Smugness here is not a good look, or even warranted.

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The new revue is swift and clever, its comedy clicking sure like clockwork, with much of the content having to do with hopeful illusions dashed by hard realities. Where upbeat newlyweds are exploring their boundaries, an older couple laughs about sharing the toilet. The jaded latter duo has sex every third Sunday, followed by Doritos and Westworld, which is the real orgasm of the occasion.

Second Company has been blessed with breakout stars of late – laugh-out-loud moments being caused by the likes of Kirsten Rasmussen, Nigel Downer and Stacey McGunnigle – but Everything is Great Again makes do finely without a breakout performer on-board.

Mind you, newcomer Paloma Nunez has her moments – as an aunt who terrorizes a young couple with her taunts of "wait till you have a baby," as a one-night-stand participant in a brilliant, wordless BBC nature-doc sketch, and as a mustached ukulele-playing Mexican immigrant who has had his heart broken by America. That country took Mexico's rich cuisine and made Taco Bell. They promised an open relationship, but now is putting up walls. The immigrant who had fallen in love with America's diverse beauty is now relegated to landscaping duties and cleaning hotel rooms.

America, in his eyes, had lied. But that is Second City's specialty: Finding laughter in letdowns. When a gang of friends celebrating someone's 30th birthday returns to the Dance Cave, they find that the club hasn't changed but that they had. One of oldies buys cocaine in the bathroom – but just out of politeness.

Everything is Great Again refers to pipe-dream political populism and self-delusion. We watch the American devolution and fool ourselves, too. Who and what can we trust? Few and not much, but then, we have Second City. Its standard is gold, rarely letting us down.

Everything is Great Again runs to July 2.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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