Foresight is 20/20, Galileo Players, at Second City, Donny's Skybox Studio, and It's a Mediocre Life, Posin' at th' Bar Productions, at Second City, Donny's Skybox Studio. Although a background in quantum physics might help, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the Galileo Players' quirky humor. Thankfully, Foresight Is 20/20 doesn't attempt to unpack all the mysteries of science in one hour. Instead the ensemble uses familiar concepts--Darwin's theory of evolution, Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, astrology--as a platform for investigating some common misconceptions about the nature of scientific thought.
Less science fact than fiction, the show's view of reality is greatly warped. The young Charles Darwin is portrayed as half evolved, howling at strangers and constantly marking his territory; Hawking is revealed as a "drooling idiot." And a series of sketches argues that alchemy is the only practical form of science. But Foresight Is 20/20 also paints a clear picture of reason's triumph over emotion and our continuing desire for easy answers to hard questions.
Not all the show's material is fail-safe, however. The closing number--which spoofs Nostradamus's vague prognostications--is too long, and most of the sketches need fine-tuning. Still, this is an impressive show given that it's the ensemble's first; if these Second City grads stick together, they'll have sketch comedy down to a science.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for It's a Mediocre Life. Apparently this parody of Frank Capra's holiday classic garnered sufficient interest two years ago at the Strawdog Theatre to merit a restaging. But it's hard to understand why, since the play is decidedly less than mediocre. Paul Engelhardt's script draws its laughs from shallow, crass humor: the premise is that Clarence must regain his wings by rescuing an alcoholic, wife-beating arsonist. There are some fine performances (in particular, Brian Posen as the neurotic Clarence), but Engelhardt doesn't give the cast much to work with. Too muddled and literal to properly skewer its source, at 40 minutes the show isn't even much of a diversion. --Nick Green