INVASION FREE SINCE 1812 directed by Bob Martin, written and performed by Matt Baram, Paul Constable, Sandy Jobin-Bevans, Jamillah Ross and Naomi Snieckus. Presented by the Second City (56 Blue Jays Way). Indefinite run, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, Saturday late night 10:30 pm. $20-$27. 416-343-0011. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Film director Howard Hawks once defined a great movie as one with three great scenes and no bad scenes, so I wonder what he'd make of the Second City 's Invasion Free Since 1812 , their 55th sketch revue. It contains more than three great scenes, but even the ones that don't work - and there are a few - are admirable because they aim high.
The first show since their disappointing Armaget-it-on, Invasion features a good mix of timely political humour - dealing in always surprising ways with pot laws, gay marriage, gun control - and universal bits.
Under Bob Martin 's sure-footed direction, two brilliant physical sketches stand out. Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram play a married couple who toss and turn one sleepless night, revealing tons about relationship angst. Later, Snieckus and Jamilla Ross play two strangers who take makeup application to new levels in a sketch that's destined for best-of status.
Now that the nimble Jennifer Goodhue's gone from the Mainstage cast, Snieckus has taken over as the company's great physical comic. She also exploits her easy access to hysteria in a wickedly over-the-top scene where she plays a manager spewing corporatese to a gay employee ( Paul Constable ) seeking maternity leave to raise his newly adopted Asian baby.
Other highlights include a darkly funny sketch about mortgages aimed at the skater crowd, and Ross's musical rant about white girls singing sad songs.
There's no weak link in the cast, and Ross and Baram show more confidence than ever before. Baram's libidinous tax evader is a completely original cartoon of a character, even if it's in a sketch that's insufficiently fleshed out.
What's missing is a suitable climax. Constable's recurring bit about a jaded radio announcer takes on cumulative power, but he deserves better than the cheap, and poorly paced, finale we're given.