Second City. Credit director Mick Napier, Annoyance Theatre guru, with one of the keenest main-stage revues yet. Citizen Gates preserves the innovations of the last revue, Pinata Full of Bees: running sketches, a wizard sound design, the refreshing absence of TV-generated humor, sharp transitions, and music as backdrop rather than foreground. This 81st revue is also unashamedly political, taking wicked shots at the candidates’ lies and empty posturing. The most hilarious scenes focus on the candidates’ hapless wives, ridiculed by the media for feminist omnicompetence (Tina Fey), bubbling inanity (Rachel Dratch), and frazzled neuroses (Jenna Jolovitz). Especially invigorating is an anti-authoritarian irreverence many critics feared had perished from this stage. Bill Gates is mocked as a fatuous nerd eager to buy up the rights to the color red. Pseudo satirist Mark Russell is spoofed for an uncontrollable urge to violate song lyrics.

Citizen Gates also offers inspired incongruities–angry old ladies with jet packs, an Internet romance between a 51-year-old woman and a 14-year-old boy, a 5’1″ female basketballer who saves the Bulls’ ass, Swiss yodelers fighting over an echo, and a paranoid motorist who terrorizes the patient AAA driver who just wants to jump-start her car. The improv proved as forceful as the scripted sketches, testifying to one of the quickest ensembles to hit Wells Street.

–Lawrence Bommer