Six months ago, Pinata Full of Bees was the funniest and most daring show Second City had produced in years, with its edgy cruel sense of humor, its constant tweaking of the audience, and its mock rally against Blockbuster–much like something the hipper Upright Citizens Brigade would do. I really wondered how the show would fare with the loss of writer, actor, and UCB cofounder Adam McKay–along with Pinata’s director, Tom Gianas–to Saturday Night Live. I needn’t have worried. The remaining cast members work together with the intelligent, egoless give and take of seasoned improvisers. And Kevin Dorff, who replaced McKay, has a wider comic range. He excels in the roles McKay shone in, like the radical schoolteacher and the scary mass murderer, and deepens those in which McKay seemed miscast, like the pipe-smoking Ivy Leaguer of the 50s-family-values parody. (Dorff’s corporate good looks make a fine addition to a scene revealing the vile underbelly of the Ward Cleaver world.) The show is sharper, the timing better, and the frantic pace more integral to the crazed Monty Python-ish structure. Second City, 1616 N. Wells, 337-3992. Open run: Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8:30 PM; Fridays and Saturdays, 8 and 11 PM; Sundays, 8 PM; no show Sunday, December 24. Special New Year’s holiday schedule December 25 through 31: Tuesday-Sunday, 8 and 11 PM. $10-$15.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Roger Lewin-Jennifer Girard Studio.