Review: Second City mixes the absurd and the topical with “Do You Believe in Madness?”


Photo courtesy The Second City

The cast of “Do You Believe in Madness?” The show, The Second City’s 108th mainstage review, opened Nov. 7

Wilson Chapman, Assistant Arts and Entertainment Editor

During a sketch about halfway through Second City’s latest show, Jordan Savusa finishes explaining how the electoral college works to his fellow cast members, and asks them if they have any questions.

“Um yeah,” Asia Martin says. “What the f-ck?”

That response — “What the f-uck?” — besides being deeply relatable, encapsulates the spirit of the Second City’s 108th mainstage revue, “Do You Believe in Madness?” The madcap two-hour sketch show was directed by Ryan Bernier and opened on Nov. 7. Its run coincides with the 60th anniversary of Second City, which will occur on Dec. 16.

“Do You Believe in Madness?” examines today’s most pressing – and infuriating – issues through a sharp satirical lens. During the show, the six-person cast of talented comedians take on a range of political issues, from hyper-specific shots at Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot to sketches riffing on more general concerns like climate change.

Although the featured topics are often heavy, the show explores them through engaging, well-developed premises with an absurdist bent. One of the best sketches sees Sarah Dell’Amico, donning a hideous wig, advocating for Florida to pull a Brexit and leave the U.S: “Flexit,” as she calls it. Dell’Amico lays out plans for how Florida will function as an independent nation, complete with sand dollars as its new currency.

I was not surprised to see that much of the show touch on the Trump administration, from impeachment inquiries to Melania’s hatred of her husband. One memorable sketch sees a Russian troll, played by Adam Schreck, applying for a job at Facebook. Schreck, busting out a comically bad Russian accent, hurls insults at Facebook for its poor security and its spread of fake news to his interviewer, in a funny critique of the platform that comes very soon after Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony. The show includes many songs, from one about weed legalization to a recurring bit where Savusa lists every single person to have exited the Trump White House since his inauguration in 2016.

Other sketches don’t comment on specific politics, but focus instead on the absurdities of modern life. The opening sketch, for example, explores the awkward relationship between two strangers who commute on the same route every morning and the weird intimacy formed between them. While this sketch and many others are well-observed and true to life, some are rather raw, such as a formless act about two new parents that lacks sharp punchlines or much of an ending. The spot-on sketches do ultimately outweigh the uninspired, but the few bad bits sometimes lag on past their welcome.

The cast handled the absurd tone with a deft touch, and showed great chemistry with one another. Dell’Amico was a particular standout, bringing an intense energy to her various characters, such as a teacher dedicated to bullying one of her students. Andrew Knox and Mary Catherine Curran also excelled at playing quirky weirdos, from a man obsessed with finding and killing a bird to a girl who covers up her cheating by claiming she has a flatulence disorder.

The show also included various improv bits, and the performers proved adept at rolling with the punches and keeping the show clipping along at a quick pace. During one improv segment the night I saw the show, Martin requested the name of an American movie from the audience. My editor, who I saw the show with, shouted out “Shallow,” then corrected herself with “A Star is Born.” In the very next sketch, Dell’Amico made a callback to the mistake, resulting in one of the biggest laughs of the night.

Through comedy, the cast of “Do You Believe in Madness?” tackles some of the most upsetting and rage-inducing topics of the day in an accessible, enjoyable way. The guiding thesis seems to be that, in the face of madness, often the best thing you can do is to laugh.

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