FAMILY CIRCUS MAXIMUS written and performed by Paul Bates, Sandy Jobin-Bevans, Doug Morency, Carolyn Taylor, Jennifer Goodhue and Aurora Browne, directed by Michael Kennard. Presented by Second City (56 Blue Jays Way). Runs indefinitely, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, late shows Friday-Saturday 10:30 pm. $19-$25. Free improv shows Monday-Thursday 10 pm, Saturday 12:30 am. 416-343-0011. Rating: NN
i have a problem with many sec-
ond City revues, including the latest, Family Circus Maximus, its 50th show and therefore one that should have been top-notch.
My problem is this. If Saturday Night Live can produce 90 minutes of good sketch comedy every week, albeit with musical guests, why can't Second City -- which must have months to work on each show -- create material of similarly high quality?
Sure, SNL employs a large team of writers and producers, but SC isn't lacking in the talent department either. Or is it?
The new Mainstage show, directed by Mump and Smoot's Michael Kennard, begins promisingly, with newcomer Aurora Browne's hand emerging from behind her bum to imitate a swan, imploring us to turn off our cellphones and pagers. Cute.
It then morphs into a tightly written musical number touching on lots of local themes, like Mayor Mel's fathering habits and the 2008 Olympics bid. Fantastic.
But then the sketches lumber out, one about a man with a childlike girlfriend, another about a guy who's in therapy because of a bad relationship with his father, the therapist. Been there, done that. Like, 15 years ago.
One vignette about a rock climber and a cellphone is so obvious it's insulting, while another piece about male hockey fans who end up kissing each other when one of them gets hurt scores lots of laughs in a minimum amount of playing time.
The second act is stronger, if only because we get to see Doug Morency and Paul Bates play an ancient-father-and-son musical duo on an interactive MuchMusic parody. Later, a sketch about two kids being babysat by Charlton Heston delivers some smoking political shots. Puns intended.
But overall, the skits feel like type O blood, suitable for all. In the end, physical comedy compensates for the holes in the script, with fine performances by old hands (Morency), some about to break (Carolyn Taylor, Sandy Jobin-Bevans) and glimpses of future stars (Browne and Jennifer Goodhue, both fearless).
That's not enough.