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Directed by Leslie Seiler, Party Today (Panic Tomorrow) is the historic troupe’s 80th mainstage program.

Racheal McCaig

2.5 out of 4 stars

Title
Party Today (Panic Tomorrow)
Written by
Nadine Djoury, Brandon Hackett, Devon Hyland, Colin Munch, Ann Pornel and Allana Reoch
Genre
Comedy
Directed by
Leslie Seiler
Company
Second City
Venue
Second City Mainstage Theatre
City
Toronto
Year
2017

The first sketch in Party Today (Panic Tomorrow), the latest comedy revue from Second City, offered advice on planning a party during a nuclear attack. For example, it's best to have CDs on hand, because, we were told, there's no WiFi music streaming once the missiles hit. To drive that point home, a cast member danced furiously to a quick cut of aggressively rhythmic music and flashing lights. That kind of loud kinetic comedy always seems to get a swell reaction from Second City audiences. It's a crutch, though.

Directed by Leslie Seiler, Party Today (Panic Tomorrow) is the historic troupe's 80th mainstage program. They've been at this for a long time and it seems to me that recent revues have steadily relied more and more upon brisk pacing and quick bits and less upon clever sketch construction and memorable characters. Perhaps Second City is serving its attention-deficient audiences, in the way sports franchises have jazzed up their game experience with noisy, flashy distractions. It is razzle and, perhaps, it's even dazzle, but what it often isn't is funny.

Short on satire and long on observational humour, Party Today (Panic Tomorrow) does have its moments. Some of it seems ripped from the pages of Now weekly (bike lane stuff!) and Toronto Life. A couple is having new-house horrors, with black mould so bad it's spelling "get the hell out."

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I liked the zinger about the U.S. presidential adviser Stephen Bannon, "a man who looks like he's allergic to himself." On the money. But Bannon is gone now – yesterday's news.

There's a line about the guy who was made a social pariah for throwing a beer can during a Blue Jays playoff game at SkyDome. That was 2016. And SkyDome is now called Rogers Centre – has been since 2005. Can you keep up, Second City?

Despite all the high energy, the slower moments – the relative respites – worked best. A pretaped bit involving an awkward family-Skype moment was a hit.

The six-member troupe is the lesser for the absence of someone such as the dynamos Kirsten Rasmussen and Stacey McGunnigle, former cast members who used came up with the type of high-impact characters that make Second City so special.

In their place, perhaps, is Colin Munch, a funny guy. He played a single sombre banana, lying disregarded on a No Frills floor. "Nobody wants to eat a bruised banana," he sighed. And what about the emotional bruises, not visible from the outside?

It was an absurdist, thoughtful and risky sketch. In a program of low-hanging comedic fruit, the damaged banana won the day.

All this isn't to say that audiences won't get their money's worth with Party Today (Panic Tomorrow). They will, Second City being a well-oiled machine. But, to my mind, perhaps too slick and too fast. A little less party and a little less panic might well be in order down at 51 Mercer St.

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Party Today (Panic Tomorrow) is in a limited run; 416-343-0011 or secondcity.com.

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