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Second City/Second City E.T.C.

Gearing up for its 40th anniversary next December, Chicago’s pioneering improv comedy theater boasts two strong, smart sketch revues: Second City’s in fine shape creatively as well as commercially. On the main stage the sharply acted The Psychopath Not Taken, directed by Mick Napier, explores alienation in a series of vignettes that range from the outrageous (a paraplegic Superman fights crime from his wheelchair) to the poignant (an eighth-grade girl dreams of a relationship with an older man, to his chagrin as he drives her home from baby-sitting). Meanwhile, at the smaller Second City E.T.C., The Revelation Will Not Be Televised proves there’s nothing second-rate about Second City’s second stage. In Jeff Richmond’s technically ambitious staging, a multiracial ensemble directs scathing satire at the gulf between politically correct posturing and base human nature, building to a visit with George Washington that offers a whole new view of the slave-owning president’s portrait on $1 bills. Free improvised sets follow most performances of these hilarious, thoughtful, sometimes raunchy productions, as audience participation provides potential material for the next scripted show. The Psychopath Not Taken runs at Second City, 1616 N. Wells, Chicago, 312-337-3992: Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8:30 PM; Fridays-Saturdays, 8 and 11 PM; Sundays, 8 PM. $12-$16. The Revelation Will Not Be Televised runs at Second City E.T.C., Piper’s Alley, 1608 N. Wells, Chicago, 312-642-8189: Thursdays, 8:30 PM; Fridays-Saturdays, 8 and 11 PM; Sundays, 8 PM; selected Wednesdays, 8:30 PM (call for weekly schedule). $12-$16.

–Albert Williams