Everything Is Great Again is funny, touching, and nuanced, and on stage in Toronto
The world is a bit of a mess these days. It always has been, but a couple of key events have made fighting the good fight feel even more exhausting. We’ve got to keep our fists up, but to do that sometimes we also need to laugh, and to cry, and to scream fruitlessly into the abyss. Everything Is Great Again, Second City‘s current Mainstage Revue, delivers catharsis on all of those levels.
The show is unabashedly political, taking firm stances on Justin Trudeau’s hypocrisy regarding both environmental concerns and electoral reform, the racist dogwhistle that is “all lives matter”, and, of course, the election of Donald Trump. The ensemble of performers are skilled at excoriating figures and systems of oppression while also creating other characters and situations that the audience can identify with. Toronto’s comedy scene is top notch, and these are very accomplished players within it – Brandon Hackett, Devon Hyland, Lindsay Mullan, Colin Munch , Paloma Nunez and Ann Pornel are excellent performers with a wonderful dynamic.
Not everything is political, in the strictest sense of the word. For example, one was a scene from the morning after a one night stand, done in the style of Planet Earth. In the sense that everything is political, this scene was refreshingly free of slut shaming. It seems almost absurd that I have to say that, but it’s still uncommon to see media depictions of heterosexual casual sex that do not demonize the woman. This sketch, like many others, showcased the performers adept physical comedy and perfect timing, in circumstances that I—and likely many others—found relatable.
There is a bit of improv in the show, including one scene where a lucky member of the audience plays a role onstage. I assume Second City has as process in place to ensure such people are willing volunteers, and our man of the night was a game lad who even contributed to an ongoing topic throughout the evening (that topic was Tim Horton’s, and this is a show in Canada, so maybe that’s unsurprising.)
The topic I most appreciated the treatment of was race. The ensemble wrote the show, and are exactly half POC, and there was not a whiff of tokenism. When the progressive white man was raging about trying to get through to those who deny the existence of privilege, his racialized girlfriend was calmly putting together an IKEA chair. She doesn’t need to say anything: we understand—without it being didactic—that racism has been a lifelong experience for her so she may as well get on with the furniture. And in one astoundingly powerful scene, the three POC go on a hallucinatory trip where they examine their guilt about ways they have strayed from their culture of origin.
The scenes are lovingly crafted and the whole show is designed with care and attention to detail. My companion commented on the “shape” of it: the longer scenes gave us time to breathe, and to think, but also built up to a crescendo of punch lines. Shorter ones kept us gasping, while placed strategically throughout were seconds-long flash-scenes that provoked sudden barks of laughter.
And then there was the dramatic one. In one wordless sequence, a pair of former best friends discover each other as old women. It is serious and sad and lovely and a single tear may have trailed down my face.
The sketches I have touched on here are a brief sample of the treasure chest of insightful, intelligent and sometimes goofy humour the Second City has offered up.
- Everything Is Great Again is playing at Second City, 51 Mercer Street
- Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 8 pm, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm and 10 pm, and Sunday at 7:30 pm
- Tickets range from $26 to $57
- Purchase tickets at 416-343-0011 or online
Photo of Brandon Hackett, Paloma Nuñez, and Ann Pornel by Paul Aihoshi