Created by the Ensemble. At: Second City e.t.c., 1608 N. Wells. Phone: 312-337-3992; $22-$27. Runs through: In an open run
Sky's the Limit (Weather Permitting), The Second City e.t.c.'s 35th new revue, has practically everything you could wish for. It's funny through and through, it's defiantly political when it wants to be and it even has a couple of touching moments that will prompt some to make that sitcom-audience "awww" sound.
It's a credit to director Matt Hovde and his creative ensemble of writer/performers that Sky's the Limit (Weather Permitting) is such a crackling success. And though plenty of humor is derived from current technology (one great bit features clips from YouTube.com), the comedy core of the show largely focuses on those old standbys of love, relationships and weather-related death.
On the political side of things, there's a great pro-same sex marriage sketch where the three ensemble men portray gay guys planning a vendetta to steal away heterosexual guys' wives until they get the legal right to marry. And though not quite as funny, a women's reproductive rights sketch features the three ensemble women as pissed-off activists calling out all the political falsehoods being thrown at Planned Parenthood.
Another consistently funny strand of sketches involves the differences between then and now when it comes to technology and instant media. Though the sketch inspired by former Representative Anthony Weiner's twittered bulge may seem dated, it's that olden days twist that gets the big laugh.
One of the best bits involves Tim Baltz as a painfully shy systems analyst on a first date with a chatty woman played by Mary Sohn. What elevates the standard situation sketch is that all of Baltz's responses are prepared on index cards (Michael Lehrer as a lascivious waiter also injects the sketch with lots of dry humor).
Baltz is also great when paired up with Brendan Jennings as two swaggering Chicago cops (complete with taped-on moustaches) who enlist the help of the audience to identify and apprehend a criminal contributing to the city's highly publicized crime rate (the 1970s cop show soundtrack, constant gunfire sound effects and Lehrer's wry appearance as Mayor Rahm Emanuel all help to make this extended sketch a constant delight).
Jessica Joy has a clever Act II song (accompanied by the talented and versatile musical director Jesse Case) where she questions life's inconsistencies. Also giving very strong character support work throughout is Aidy Bryant (particularly in a sketch where she plays a woman who has captured a bird played by Baltz for emotional fulfillment).
With a title like Sky's the Limit (Weather Permitting), Second City e.t.c. taps into America's great optimism by also tempering it with realistic doom and gloom. It's this dichotomy that grounds the show, but also allows the humor to take topical and hilarious flight.