Staged Season 2 [9/10]

The first season of “Staged” gave every impression of being the last, simply because it so obviously played with the pandemic lockdown world. Essentially it was David Tennant and Michael Sheen hilariously, cerebrally sparring over Zoom about rehearsing over Zoom for a post-Coronavirus play. While some of the humor derived from the brilliant concept, the real pleasure was manic, unpredictable improvisation of the two leads and a dozen or so others. Guest jaunts from the likes of Samuel L. Jackson and Judi Dench only added to the pleasure. I judged it to be a “Coronavirus boon,” so when, out of the blue, Season 2 was sprung on us, I was delighted if anxious. Would the concept sour? The welcome news is that the second season is even more adventurous, virtuosic, and comedic. A simple conceit – that Sheen and Tennant miss out on starring in a remake for American audiences because they are insufficiently famous – almost spirals out of control as the two of them rage and mourn and grieve and plot. The overarching control of Simon Evans (who co-writes, directs, and puts in a fabulous performance himself) ensures that all eight episodes of Staged’s second season are cackingly funny and sparkling. Cameos by Michael Palin, Jim Parsons, Simon Clegg, Cate Blanchett, Ewan McGregor, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge are perfect icing on a reprise that outdoes the first season.

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