THIS PARTY'S A RIOT! written and performed by Rob Baker, Dale Boyer, Adam Cawley, Inessa Frantowski, Carly Heffernan and Kris Siddiqi (Second City, 51 Mercer). Limited run. $15-$29. 416-343-0011. See listing. Rating: NNN
Second City's new revue doesn't match the smart laughs of its predecessor, the record-breaking Something Wicked Awesome This Way Comes. But its game cast powers through even the weaker sketches with enthusiasm.
The show opens with a high-energy sequence featuring the six comics wondering what they did the night before. Sound and rhythm problems plague this bit, and there just aren't that many laughs.
Things pick up when Adam Cawley and talented newcomer Carly Heffernan play a couple addressing their wedding party guests, the rifts in their relationship showing beneath their smiling, drunken faces.
Cawley dominates the revue with a manic edge, whether he's the bitter son of a greedy baby boomer (Rob Baker), a Jersey Shore wannabe trying to pick up club district girls with his best pal (Kris Siddiqi) or a husband who doesn't get what he bargained for when he and his wife (Inessa Frantowski) agree to a threesome.
I wish director Bruce Pirrie had set up a more satisfying rhythm for that boomer sketch. There's no arc to Cawley's emotional outbursts, but still he's completely watchable.
So is Siddiqi, especially as a pretentious yoga instructor with unorthodox methods and a zombie who has a crush on his ex-girlfriend (Dale Boyer). And Boyer and Heffernan stand out in a funny-because-it's-true sketch about a drunken visit to a tattoo parlour.
Alas, unpolished writing ruins a promising sketch about how social media contributed to the Egyptian revolution. (Is it really possible that in 2011 the phrase "You're all gay" is meant to get laughs?) A send-up of the A&E show Hoarders goes nowhere, a bit of audience interaction adding little to the unfunny result.
Another failed sketch about the suggestion box at a low-morale office would be cute if it came up during an improv session, but for this to make the cut - and to open up the second act - feels bizarre.
Speaking of improv, the show closes with an off-the-cuff scene that goes in unexpected directions. It's a huge logistical gamble for the company, but if it works, as it did partly on opening night, the payoff includes a terrific post-show buzz. You'll definitely be talking about this one on the way out.