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Comedy Review:

"HOLY WAR, BATMAN! OR THE YELLOW CAB OF COURAGE," The Second City e.t.c.

BY LUCIA MAURO

The name of its 23rd revue might sound unwieldy and disjointed, but The Second City e.t.c.’s "Holy War, Batman! Or the Yellow Cab of Courage" proves how flawlessly the writers-performers bring their intelligent comedic commentary full circle. While it revolves around the cloying fears of our post-9/11 world, the show does not stop at predictable Osama bin Laden jokes. Instead most of its bits take a piercing and hilarious look at the foibles of society at large – from pretentious folk-music fans to an opportunistic media.

They may not be breaking new ground (especially the well-worn White House intern job interview sequence), but they sure know how to draw belly laughs from subjects as overdone as beauty pageants and libido-crazed housewives. Director Joshua Funk keeps the action brisk while saving time for pungent reflection. Samantha Albert, Andy Cobb, T.J. Jagodowski, Jack McBrayer, Keegan-Michael Key and Abby Sher bolt from one inter-locked scenario to the next, demonstrating their mastery of subtle chameleon gesture and intonation.

Key undergoes a range of transformations – from his recurring through-line Middle Eastern cab driver, who plasters his cab with American flags and listens to patriotic songs, to a black man from the projects comparing his bleak memories of holidays with the idyllic musings of an affluent white suburbanite played by Jagodowski in blissful oblivion.

Experts at defying expectations, then making those twists and turns believable, The Second City e.t.c. ensemble shows us how the first female President of the United States really could have worked at Applebee’s or how a man responsible for keeping the world safe from terrorists used to install cable.

Some of the most piquant sketches include: Christ’s Last Supper transformed into a marketing opportunity; an ego-crazed monk recording group called The Boys in the Hoods; a feminist folk band named "No Shoes, No Cervix"; a diabolical interactive nutrition exhibit at a museum; folk fans whose occupations include homeopathic quilting and the clay arts; a raunchy monologue by a cigarette-puffing three-month-old infant; and the drastic change in CNN’s focus before and after Sept. 11.

Ably assisted by musical director Trey Stone, the nimble cast masterfully blurts out a stream of unspoken truths against an apropos, uninhibited "Romper Room"-like backdrop of big geometric cut-outs and primary colors.•

"Holy War, Batman! Or the Yellow Cab of Courage" is in an open run at The Second City e.t.c., 1608 N. Wells in Piper’s Alley. Tickets: $17. Call 312-337-3992 or log onto www.secondcity.com.


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