After years of drudgery and leaden comedy on The Second City’s mainstage, last year’s “Doors Open on the Right” was a moderate improvement. The newest revue, “Red Scare,” builds on that trend and for the first time in ages, the cast—half of which is brand new—surpasses the folks over on the e.t.c. stage. For better and for worse, the current show is quintessential Second City. The material (and its presentation) is not groundbreaking, but when it works, it really works—primarily because this is the strongest mainstage ensemble in years. All six members have plenty of talent, particularly Maribeth Monroe, a malleable performer reminiscent of former main-stager Stephanie Weir (now of “MADtv”). With her bob-and-bangs haircut, Monroe makes a bold impression as a bike-riding bitch, an exasperated schoolteacher and, most memorably, an inflatable sex doll with her mouth shaped in a permanent blowjob-ready “oh.” Monroe is one of the newbies, along with Brian Gallivan (a tall, lanky performer who mines whole chunks of comedy playing a dwarfish leprechaun) and Claudia Michelle Wallace (who sings a sweetly funny love-ballad to Barack Obama). The addition of these three performers raises the bar for returning veterans Antoine McKay (who shows a real knack for grizzled characters) and the two most consistent and solid players of the group, Brian Boland and Jean Villepique, who turn a sketch about speed-dating into something funny simply by virtue of their bored body language. What the show really needs at this point is tighter editing from director Mick Napier—more than a few sketches overstay their welcome. (Nina Metz)
“Red Scare” is in an open run on The Second City Main Stage, 1616 North Wells, (312)337.3992.