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Review: Woolly Mammoth’s “Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies”

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When I accepted Becca’s invitation to be her theatre buddy at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company last season, my writing reviews for this blog was practically fait accompli. How fitting, then, that my inaugural post should cover a show revolving around the themes of death and fate, not to mention an opening duet in which our Commander in Chief invokes the aforementioned French phrase in an effort to win over a Republican constituent.

Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies is the latest show from Chicago’s legendary sketch comedy troupe, The Second City, to grace the Woolly Mammoth’s stage. Following in the footsteps of the previous hit collaborations between the two companies—Barack Stars and A Girl’s Guide to Washington PoliticsSpoiler Alert brings a gut-busting twist to The Woolly’s season-long exploration of the question “Does our civilization have an expiration date?”

"Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies" at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre
Scott Montgomery, Aaron Bliden, Travis Turner, Jessica Frances Dukes, Maribeth Monroe, James T. Alfred (photo by Michael Brosilow)

From the moment we took our seats to beats of Kanye’s “All of the Lights,” it was clear that nobody was holding anything back tonight. Neither Second City nor the Woolly Mammoth are afraid of pushing their audiences’ comfort zones, whether the topic is politics, race, sex, or just good old-fashioned foul language and poop jokes.

You want a dead-on impersonation of Barack Obama and pot shots at the latest Republican flavor of the month? You got it. You want to know what uncomfortable sociodemographic stereotypes fit Chicago’s baseball teams? Done. You want a song pondering unanswerable questions such as the modern-day chicken vs. egg conundrum of Axe Body Spray vs. douche bags? Look no further. You want a male stripper in pink briefs, a furniture salesman coughing up blood, and some sort of tranny/bestial/Shake Weight orgy? No? Well, too bad, you get those too.

"Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies" at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre
Maribeth Monroe, James T. Alfred (photo by Michael Brosilow)

As hard as it may be to believe from those random snippets, Spoiler Alert is well-constructed, with sketches building off each other’s themes, recalling earlier jokes, or cleverly soliciting and building off audience interaction in unexpected ways. (Warning: do not get a seat in the first row at a Second City show if all you want is an evening sitting back and laughing at the action on stage.)

Comedy and art are at their best when they both entertain and offer opportunities for reflection and introspection. This show hits on both counts. I laughed hard enough and long enough that evening to be able to convince myself it was acceptable to skip my ab workout (shh – yes, that’s a totally acceptable substitution!). And I expect it will be some time before I stop thinking about the scene with a creepy TSA agent who provocatively highlights the absurdity of our fears of certain types of privacy invasion by using audience members to demonstrate how little privacy we actually enjoy on a daily basis.

"Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies" at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre
Scott Montgomery (photo by Michael Brosilow)

With tickets available for only $20 for those of us still limboing in under the 30th birthday mark and starting at $35 even if you’ve surreptitiously bumped that stick off its notch, there’s no excuse not make your way down to the Woolly and see this show before its run ends on January 8th. Get tickets here.

Woolly Mammoth Theater
641 D Street N.W.
Washington, D.C.
(202) 289-2443

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