At: The Second City e.t.c., 1616 N. Wells St. Tickets: 312-337-3992 or www.secondcity.com; $23-$48. In an open run
Typically, people are driven to despair and misery when contemplating existential feelings of insignificance in the universe. But for the super-clever and very funny crew behind Apes of Wrath, the new 38th revue for The Second City e.t.c., those potentially depressing notions of meaningless can be comic gold.
With a title that perhaps is a nod to the latest Planet of the Apes franchise film, the crew of Apes of Wrath have applied a scientific and futuristic spin to this hilarious revue of big ideas and contemporary cultural criticism. The expansiveness of galaxies is not only admired, but mined for comedy when applied to our own lives concerned with work, relationships and sex in this fleet revue overseen with great panache by director Jen Ellison.
Particularly fun is an early sketch set in the offices of Buzzfeed, where a former investigative print journalist ( Tim Ryder ) tries to find a way to fit into a superficial online world where angry cat pictures and meaningless quizzes ultimately rule. Or revel in the pro-science sketch where a pediatrician ( Ryder, again ) gets help from an indirect source ( Asher Perlman ) to tell off two anti-vaccination first-time parents.
Brooke Breit and Eddie Mujica are particularly hilarious in a futuristic sketch involving a woman and her troubled romantic relationship with a doubtful robot branded as "Iverson." Mujica's mechanical movements ( coupled with great synchronized sound effects by musical director and composer Alex Kliner ) makes this sketch a hilarious standout.
Punam Patel has a grand time as an entrepreneur who has devised an event to help sons keep their chastity before marriage, while Carisa Barreca shows off plenty of musical abilities in songs touching upon the scary drive for utter perfection in womanhood to orbital longings for love.
If there's one thing to criticize in the show, it's that the improvisational moments drawn from audience responses aren't as elaborately pre-planned among the full cast as in previous Second City revues. But on a smaller improvised scale, Breit has a great time as a drunken woman at a high school reunion, Mujica as a guilt-inducing soon-to-be American citizen and Patel and Ryder as two pretentious performance artists riffing on contemporary events ( watch out for the duo's embarrassing costumes ).
Sarah Ross' sleek and slightly futuristic set design and the flashy lighting design work of Kyle Anderson both tie neatly into the show's overall futuristic concept for Apes of Wrath, giving the whole show a pricier look than usual.
So kudos to the entire cast and crew of Apes of Wrath for not dumbing down the comedy. Apes of Wrath shows that you can be unashamedly brainy and funny at the same time.