For a show called “Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies,” cast members are remarkably tight-lipped. You won’t get any additional spoilers from the cast of the Second City show before the Chicago comedy troupe begins its D.C. run Tuesday at Woolly Mammoth Theatre.
“I am such a big fan of the show,” says Maribeth Monroe, a Second City company member. “And if I reveal too much about it, it would take away from the audience’s experience.”
“I feel like I’m going to say something wrong on that one,” says Jessica Frances Dukes, a Woolly Mammoth company member who is joining the Second City cast, when asked for just a teeny-tiny kernel of another spoiler.
Despite the morbid title, “Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies” won’t be a total blood bath. The show is a black comedy that brings out the hilarity in our current national state of gloom. Written after two longtime fixtures of the Second City company passed away, it’s a wry look at mortality and a celebration of underdogs — and it speaks directly to audiences who have spent the past year suffering, whether at the hands of the economy or just fate.
“It’s really beautiful, in a way that I haven’t experienced a Second City show before,” Monroe says. “There’s things that the show gets away with that it [should] never really get away with.”
“I don’t want to give too much away.”
Non-spoiler 1: Not everybody actually dies. “There is a lot of death in the show,” Monroe says. “I can’t say that everybody dies in the show, but I can guarantee that there will be enough to justify the title.” She says that some of the deaths are gruesome — “there are definitely some horror theater, horror movie elements” — but not the kind of blood-drenching stuff that the audience will need to wear ponchos. “One of the deaths has caused people to leave the theater,” she says. “Me personally, as an actress, seeing what provoked people — I would not, but it is going to affect the audience.”
Non-spoiler 2: The world ends. It’s just in one sketch, though. The show is a collection of skits, with the five cast members playing more than 12 roles each. The world’s end isn’t much of a spoiler because Woolly Mammoth’s season is apocalypse-themed. Still, this sketch, performed by Dukes, evokes the same existential questions asked by Lars von Trier in his recent movie “Melancholia,” among them: When the destruction of the planet is imminent, will you panic or calmly await your fate?
“It’s very obvious that she’s going to go because it’s the end of the world — it’s bombs outside, the world blowing up, it’s crashing down around her,” Dukes says, “but I have some questions before I go. That’s one of my favorite moments in the show.”
Non-spoiler 3: You might get a little bit misty. After all of the aforementioned death and destruction, you might have gleaned that this show is a rather dark comedy for Second City.
“It’s beautiful and tugs at your heartstrings,” Monroe says. “I don’t think we leave the audience sad. We leave them with optimism. . . . We are exaggerating the tragedy in a comedic way.”
“It’s full of this message of live your life to the fullest, enjoy who you are, be who you are,” Dukes says. “It helped me look at death in a more positive light. It allows you to laugh. It allows you to relieve a few of your worries.”
Non-spoiler 4: You will learn about strippers and heaven. It’s still a comedy, after all. “If people have an idea of what they think heaven is, I think we will change their perspective,” Monroe says. “If anyone has ever visited a stripper, I think we will change their perspective about that as well.” No more clues from her: “That would be spoiling the non-spoiler,” she says.
Non-spoiler 5: You could become a part of the show. Second City shows aren’t conducive to shy audiences. You could be called upon at any time to participate in a sketch.
“One audience-participation sketch, the audience doesn’t even know it’s participating in,” Monroe says. “I’ll leave it at that.”
Dukes says the audience is considered an additional cast member. “There’s a line that really stuck with me: ‘We know more about you than you think we do,’ ” the actors tell the audience, she says. “This is one of those plays where no one is safe. We know you.”
Written and performed by Chicago’s the Second City. 2 hours and 15 minutes, with one intermission. Dec. 6-Jan. 8 at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW. 202-393-3939. woollymammoth.net.