“The Lord wants…a do-over, ” goes one of the funnier lyrics in a spiritual about natural disasters in Second City’s 92nd mainstage revue. But rather than focusing on specific news stories, “Daily Show”-style, Second City, per its tradition, always takes a more timeless approach. Half of the time—namely, the first half—“Iraqtile Dysfunction” centers on the psychic fall out of current events and the comedic reckoning thereof. The best scenes are short and sweet, including a quick bit of back-of-the-classroom humor that fuels a sketch about baseball, steroids and obscene player salaries, and a ridiculous, plaintive folk ballad about the pampered lives of white guys. Outed CIA spy Valerie Plame is reduced to volunteering at her child’s school, and while the scene is predictable, Holly Erdman (as Plame) sells it with an efficient preppiness. It’s subtle work, and the same can be said of Claudia Michelle Wallace, who teams up with Antoine McKay (he of the appealing hangdog confidence) for an improv bit that rips apart the “mystical black people” trope of Hollywood’s invention. The energy and quality drop off considerably after intermission, and Maribeth Monroe’s overall performance—loud and forced-seeming—never synchs up with the more relaxed, easygoing efforts of her cast mates. (This is an actress I’ve liked quite a bit in the past; she would do well to dial it down.) Without question, the show’s epicenter is Brian Gallivan, who has a killer improv set as a chatty, effeminate airport customs agent operating somewhere south of the border. It is a priceless piece of comedy that morphs into another improv set that references the scene before it. It’s not a new concept really, but as laid out by director Ron West, it feels entirely unexpected. (Nina Metz)
“Iraqtile Dysfunction” plays at The Second City Mainstage Theater, 1616 North Wells, (312)337-3992.