For those who were lucky enough to catch Second City’s original sketch comedy She the People when it rolled through town last December, you might be wondering how the all-female cast of comedians could hope to top itself. Fear not: in its return to Woolly Mammoth Theatre, the famed Chicago comedy troupe’s She the People: The Resistance Continues! features all new material that doesn’t just ‘poke fun’—but brazenly skewers—the patriarchy in viciously funny form.
In a review of last December’s show I noted the difficult balance female comedians are often forced to strike when tackling sensitive political issues (and “women’s issues” in particular) to avoid being dismissed as “hysterical” or “shrill.” For that reason, it felt like “punches were pulled, and the jokes could [have gone] further.” I wished the cast might “sharpen their knives,” going forward.
Where the first She the People featured far lighter fare peppered with only a few true gut-punches, this years’ version is very much the inverse. Sure, the sketches focus on many of the same themes: negative body issues, portrayals of women in the media, the frustrating rise of anti-vaxxers. But this time the gloves are off: last years’ breezy “lean cuisine” jokes are replaced by children desperate to shed a few pounds or risk losing their parents’ love. A doctor brings in a “surrogate” parent, on whom she can rain down vitriol and tell what she really thinks of their parenting decisions (within full earshot of the actual, aghast parents).
While poking fun at female stereotypes and railing on politics is always safe fare in our nation’s capital, religion can be a different story. Nonetheless, the women of the Second City go there, calling out all of Christianity, and the Catholic Church in particular, for a millennium’s multitude of sins.
She the People: The Resistance Continues!closes January 5, 2020. Details and tickets
There are, of course, lighter moments, including one of my favorite song and dance numbers, “Rubenesque,” in which some of the casts’ more voluptuous vixens flaunt their bods in glorious, girl-power fashion. And the game show, “Ovary Reaction” (pronounced “overreaction”) where female contestants express ‘excessive’ ‘hysterical’ reactions when faced with piddly little things like the disastrous effects of climate change and an ongoing acceptance of rape culture in America.
The women of the Second City do not pull punches when it comes to the use of frequent expletives, vividly explicit sexual language, or the occasional ear-popping gunshot at close range. If you’re someone who opts for bleeped-out NPR podcasts, cringes at crude word play, or frightens easily, this might not be the show for you. And if you’re not into audience participation, maybe choose a seat toward the back.
But if a showy, scandalous, fiercely female-powered night of comedy is your drug of choice, make your way to Woolly this holiday season – the Second City won’t disappoint.
The Second City’s She the People. Written by Carisa Barreca, Alex Bellisle, Katie Caussin, Carly Heffernan and the casts of the Second City. Directed by Carly Heffernan. Assistant-Directed and Choreographed by Carisa Barreca. Set Designer Meghan Raham. Lighting and Projections Designer Sarah Tundermann. Sound Designer Sarah O’Halloran. Costume Designer Jessica Sheehan. Dramaturg Kirsten Bowen. Featuring Carisa Barreca, Alex Bellisle, Katie Caussin, Kazi Jones, Sayjal Joshi and Jo Scott. Presented by Woolly Mammoth Theatre . Reviewed by Meaghan Hannan Davant.