psychedelicatessen written and performed by Paul Bates, Aurora Browne, Paul Constable, Jennifer Goodhue, Nathan David Shore and Carolyn Taylor, directed by Chris Earle. Presented by Second City (56 Blue Jays Way). Indefinite run, Monday-Friday 8 pm, Saturday 8 and 10:30 pm. $19-$25. 416-343-0011. Rating: NNNN
psychedelicatessen is the funni-est and sharpest Second City revue in years.The show's received ink for its comic commentary on political events, but what makes it irresistible is its shapely writing and structure and pointed direction by Chris Earle, an SC member from one of its golden periods.
The best sketch comedy plays with our expectations, and Earle and cast do that immediately in the opening bit, which turns into a sly warning to turn off those cellphones.
After a series of witty quick hits comes a brilliant sketch that begins with three smokers at a birthday party, turns into a hilarious discussion of the war and keeps pushing those buttons until the final surprising blackout line.
Other full-length sketches that hit their marks include Paul Constable as a frustrated Rogers@Home customer and a look at generations of Canuck musicians who've crossed the border for bucks.
The second act is dominated by two first-rate scenes, one featuring a couple (Constable and Aurora Browne) who only get off on violent situations, the other about a single mom (Carolyn Taylor) readying her child (Jennifer Goodhue) to see The Lord Of The Rings. This last sketch contains what may be the funniest line of the show, although another about Krispy Kreme donuts is equally good.
The ensemble works well together, though I wish there were more chances for Nathan David Shore's dark humour to emerge. After two seasons, the short, big-eyed Goodhue has come into her own: she's always alive and in the moment, hugely watchable.
One final word. For once, the title, usually a throwaway pun, has resonance in the show, at once surreally nailing our narcissistic consumerist culture yet providing a throwback to the more laid-back era from which Second City emerged.