Carly Telford, Chris O’Bray & Raechel Fisher. Photo by Laura-Kate Dymond.
Irrelephant Productions takes us into the mouth of the sea lion for 55 minutes of absurd sketch comedy, peppered with drag performance and social satire in the wacky, surreal Swallowed Whole, written and directed by Rachel Perry, and running at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse.
Sketch comedy trio Chris O’Bray, Raechel Fisher and Carly Telford take us through a series of comedic, sometimes bizarre, scenarios: a cooking show for poor people, hosted by O’Bray in old lady drag; and a pair of entitled, dick-obsessed slackers (Fisher and Telford in drag) get broromantic to the tune of You Don’t Bring Me Flowers—returning later with O’Bray in a three-man boy band. There’s the misadventures of Calvin (O’Bray), who finds himself trapped in the oddest places—and his pissed of (recent) ex (Fisher), Olive Garden manager (Fisher), and even his mom (Telford) and dad (Fisher) refuse to help. And then there’s the Ouija Board Dating Game, where bachelorette Demi (Fisher) poses a series of compatibility questions to three dead celebrity bachelors (Telford, O’Bray and a surprise guest).
Shouts to the cast for going all-out in their commitment to character and outrageous antics. Telford and Fisher are especially funny as the two slacker bros; and O’Bray’s cooking lady is something of a low-rent Julia Child. And nice work from the trio on the boy band harmonies!
It’s a mad, mad work of bizarre wacky times. And you can wash it all down with a Dougie Ford Buck a Beer beer while you bop your head to the music and marvel at humanity’s endless quirks.
Swallowed Whole continues at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse for two more performances: July 13 at 6:45 and July 14 at 8:00; check the show page for advance tickets.
First up was Purvis with an edgy, hilarious stand-up set that ranged from the personal to the observational. Cheeky, irreverent and sometimes adult (and by that, I mean dirty), topics covered social interaction, autobiography and bizarre, eye-opening experiences. Keeping us laughing as he recorded the set for posterity, we rolled along with bit after bit: extreme social awkwardness meets faux pas in an unfortunate elevator moment; an unusual reception from an American; and a surprisingly disturbing visit to an Alberta strip club in Red Deer—to name just a few.
Purvis’s underlying vibe of awkwardly shy, beer loving introvert translates well into some sharply delivered self-deprecating humour and storytelling. With a twinkle in his eye the whole time, he plays on the edge of shock and ‘aw, shucks’—and delivers it with an engaging east coast kitchen party flavour (or maybe that’s because, like Purvis, I spend more time at Reid’s kitchen table than I do my own).
After a brief intermission, it was Reid’s turn; showcasing bits from his solo shows, including In Vino Veritas, and a surprise guest appearance. Philosophy, religion and politics emerge in a blend of social satire, scathing political commentary and whip-smart insight. From the snake-like Southern minister preaching salvation with a gambling angle, to the darkly funny Church of the Gun’s take on The Three Little Pigs, to the drunken wisdom of Rory MacFadden and his philosophy of transcendental intoxication, Reid has us laughing, thinking—and sticking it to the likes of Trump, the NRA and sociopolitical dumbassery in general.
A sharply tuned wordsmith, entertainer and social agitator, Reid is a mercurial and cerebral performer with a bang-on sense of comic timing, a dark edge and a great sense of fun. Julian Sark joined Reid for a hysterically quirky two-hander to close the set. Was Cletus afflicted by the delayed effects of puberty or Lycanthropy? In any event, you’ve definitely never seen a silver bullet cure like this one.
Teige Reid and Darryl Purvis take us to the Church of the Perpetual LOLs with sharp, observational stand-up and storytelling in Teige and Darryl Do A Show Together Show. This was one night only, but keep an eye out for Reid and Purvis performing around the city.
Set up in a variety show format, the evening’s festivities were hosted by stand-up comic Hisham Kelati, and featured guests Northwest Passage and Leslie Hudson. The Dandies are: Chris Casselman, Danielle Cole, Alan Leightizer, Zach Mealia, Jamillah Ross, Dale and Andie Wells, and Jason Zinger (musical director).
Host Hisham Kelati (aka Black Riker) kicked off the night with a set, interspersing bits throughout the evening. A Star Trek fanboy himself, bits included a hilarious encounter in a bathroom during a fan convention and anecdotes about his Eritrean mother, illustrating how she’s a Klingon mom at heart.
Sketch comedy duo Northwest Passage (Kat Letwin and Simon McCamus) served up some darkly funny—and socially apt—storytelling with a series of sketches about a Grade 1 overachiever (Letwin) and how an art class critique from her teacher (McCamus) changes her life. The far-reaching and lasting consequences of that fateful day come on funny and poignant at the same time.
Singer/songwriter Leslie Hudson is also a serious Star Trek fangirl—and she proves it with a set of soulful, blues-infused original songs inspired by the various series (included on a CD). With driving beats and heartfelt ballads, she sings of doctors, captains and strong Klingon women.
For the main event, The Dandies—who set up their characters at the top of the evening—returned to the stage for some Star Trek-themed improv. Company member Alan Leightizer schooled us on audience participation for sound effects: entrances/exits through ship doors, transporter beams and warp speed engagement.
Set on the USS Hummingbird, the crew is getting used to some new arrivals: a disgraced, demoted former Captain of the USS Albatross and his Borg colleague Nine of Ten; and an ambitious young first officer. The Hummingbird’s Captain is a fierce and unforgiving Klingon woman with a love of vintage Earth clothing and reputation for ritually killing those who displease her. And the new Commander’s attempt at ingratiating himself gets super awkward when she expects his shipment of bell bottom pants to ring.
The newly, and dubiously, promoted Doctor has no patients to practice on, so the Captain assembles an away team. Beamed down to the surface, the gang finds themselves on a planet inhabited by talking monkeys. The Captain decides to fight their leader to the death for possession of the monkey inhabitants; binge-watching the Rocky movies in preparation of the battle.
It’s silly, it’s crazy—and it’s 90 minutes of good fun Star Trek parody.
Wacky, trippy good times with stand-up, sketch, music and improv in The Dandies’ Holodeck Follies.
Holodeck Follies was a one night only show, but look out for a return of The Dandies in February and keep an eye out for them at Toronto Comicon (March 17-19).
Ever wonder where the misfit toys went after Santa took them off the island? How about that original ending to A Charlie Brown Christmas that the network execs didn’t want you to see? And how Oliver Twist became an activist?
Wonder no more, my friends. For this holiday season, Second City presents Twist Your Dickens. Written by former TheColbert Report writers Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort, and directed by Chris Earle, with music direction by Ayaka Kinugawa, it’s running right now at the Greenwin Theatre at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.
If you’re looking for a straightforward comedic retelling of A Christmas Carol, you ain’t getting it here. Starring Seán Cullen and Patrick McKenna, and featuring award-winning Second City alumni Jason DeRosse, Nigel Downer, Sarah Hillier, Karen Parker and Allison Price, Twist Your Dickens plays with sketch comedy and improv as it weaves other classic holiday favourites with Dickens’ famous Christmas tale, twisting and turning the storytelling—and the fun—in wacky, unexpected ways. Think secret Santa at the Fezziwigs’ office Christmas party; Tiny Tim’s sleepover; Oliver Twist’s orphan protest.
Leading this wacky band of performers, Cullen gives us a deliciously nasty and darkly funny Scrooge; callous and money grubbing, with hints of the Grinch, he has a game, child-like quality—which comes in handy on his journey with the ghosts. McKenna does a fabulous job, juggling several supporting characters, including the woebegone Jacob Marley; the chains he forged in a miserable life linked with confessions shared by audience members, inspiring a round of hilariously bizarre improv. McKenna also does a hysterically hyper-cheerful (or is he?) Fred, Scrooge’s nephew; he does a mean Jimmy Stewart George Bailey too.
Rounding out the ensemble is a fine group of sketch comedy/improv performers. DeRosse is Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s put-upon but faithful clerk (or is he?); he gives a stand-out performance as Linus in the alternate ending for A Charlie Brown Christmas, as the gang reacts to his speech at the school Christmas pageant. Karen Parker plays Mrs. Cratchit, Bob’s supportive wife who can barely stand to tolerate Scrooge—and has some interesting suggestions on that score. And she shines with the song stylings of Ruby Santini, delivering her own personal, hilariously inappropriate take on classic Christmas songs during a recording session (featuring McKenna as her baffled, stressed out producer). Hillier plays Tiny Tim, with a decided twist; this kid may be schlepping along with an ill-fitting crutch, but he’s no wilting wallflower.
Downer calls out the show’s obvious and not so obvious anachronisms as the Heckler; and does an awesome job as the rad, energetic Ghost of Christmas Past. And Price is hilarious as the drunken party girl Ghost of Christmas Present and the prankster Ghost of Christmas Future.
With shouts to the design team Jackie Chau (set), Melanie McNeill (costume) and Christina Cicko (lighting), and stage manager Andrew Dollar.
Second City serves up the fun with a trippy mashup of holiday classics in Twist Your Dickens.
Twist Your Dickens continues in the Greenwin Theatre at the Toronto Centre for the Arts until December 30. Get your advance tix online; for group discounts (8 plus), call THE Group Tix Company 647-438-5559, outside GTA 1-866-447-7849 or visit the group box office online.
Theatre Lab opened its production of Jonny Sun’s Dead End, directed by Michael Orlando, on Thursday night in the Factory Theatre Studio, where I caught it last night, along with a post-show talkback with Sun and Orlando.
Set in an isolated and claustrophobic fourth floor corridor of an abandoned high school during the zombie apocalypse, we’re introduced to the world of Dead End via voice-over (by Ceridwen Kingstone) – and in darkness. A wry, matter-of-fact, school announcement vibe, we’re told we’re lucky to be in the high school, which aside from being run-down and neglected, has largely escaped the ravages of the apocalypse. Unlike the neighbouring middle school, which was not so lucky. But even so, this hallway was once the sad and sorry student path to the math classrooms – and for some of us, that is pretty scary in itself.
Stumbling into this space, two young men (Christian Smith and Chris Wilson) fumble about with flashlights, searching the darkness for possible danger. For a while, they are contented that they are safe and zombie-free. But not for long. They are joined by a lone zombie (Kingstone), which is now blocking their way out. One man (Wilson) has a gun. But it only has one bullet left. Dark hilarity ensues as the two men try to come up with a plan to evade the zombie and get to safety. Oddly, the zombie appears to be disinterested in them.
This three-person cast does a remarkable job within the span of about 65 minutes, where discussion and debate ranges from death, attraction, sexual preference, gender, the five second rule – and, especially, the nature of zombie life. As the man with the gun (the characters have no names here), Wilson is the sharp, cynical dominant of the pair; edgy and quick to jump to conclusions, there’s a soft centre under there somewhere. Smith brings a whimsical, at times goofy, philosophical vibe to man without gun; not wanting to take things at face value always, he’s continually questioning the status quo and what they think they know. And Kingstone’s zombie is a masterpiece of sound and movement; with the character based on movement and groan directions in the script, she’s created a distinct personality – bringing humanity to an otherwise wretched and solitary, perhaps even lonely, creature.
Is a zombie an “it” or does it retain its human gender identification – and if the latter, how would you know? And, of course, you can’t speak of monsters without addressing the nature of humanity. And who is that last bullet for?
The show was followed by a short talkback, where we learned that playwright Sun got into theatre when he discovered he missed it while he was in engineering school; he’d been really involved in high school and got into writing sketch comedy at U of T. Dead End came from an exploration of anxiety and depression – particularly internal anxiety versus external stress – Sun found that comedy was a good way to work through stuff; and the last bullet decision is a metaphor for this exploration. Dead End started as a sketch, and Sun realized that there was more to say, so it went from five pages to the 65-minute one-act script we see today. A question about character names and gender came up; the zombie is played by a female actor, but is referred to as “he” (by man without gun, called No Gun in the script) or “it” (by man with gun, called Gun). The characters were written without names, just descriptions, and with no set gender in mind; gender is pretty much irrelevant. One audience member noted that the dialogue is “sporadic and naturalistic” in rhythm and tone, and wondered how much of the play is improv. The cast is strong with the improv force, so Orlando let them riff around the structure of the script, creating a different dynamic every time, but still hitting all the cues (which was a relief to SM Heather Bellingham, I’m sure).
With shouts to the creative team for their amazingly creepy, eerie atmospheric work on this production: Megan Fraser (SPFX) and Valentina Vatskovskaya (production makeup/hair), Melissa Joakim (lighting), Jason O’Brien (sound), Roselie Williamson (costume) and Louisa Zhu (fight director).
Sympathy for the devil and debate on the nature of humanity in darkly comic, thoughtful Dead End.
Dead End continues in the Factory Theatre Studio space until October 23; advance tix available online. Come on out for some good, creepy pre-Halloween fun with two guys and a zombie.
Written by the ensemble and directed by Carly Heffernan, assisted by Nigel Downer, with music direction by Lee Cohen, Come What Mayhem! features SC Toronto veterans and new faces: Roger Bainbridge, Kyle Dooley, Becky Johnson, Brandon Hackett, Lindsay Mullan and Ann Pornel. Tackling everything from relationships and dating, bullying and consent, Black Lives Matter and racism, politics, transit, health and gender, the cast holds no punches – and delivers each scene with mercurial timing and big laughs in this hilariously scathing look at ourselves and our world.
Stand-outs include the wistful romantic musings of Mullan’s quiet Shoppers Drug Mart clerk, which included audience participation; Pornel and Dooley’s Tinder chat, with its pointed look at how we exoticize race; and Johnson’s hysterically awkward navigation of her date’s (Bainbridge) encounters with his exes. The show also features some thought-provoking moments. Hackett goes from poignant and introspective when date night meets Black Lives Matter (with Mullan) to outrageously funny as the guy who’s proud as heck about his restaurant order (where he also showcases his singing chops); the no-nonsense Pornel (who also brings awesome vocals to a song about her perfect guy) schools her girls’ night out bffs (Johnson and Mullan) on what “fat” is and isn’t; and Bainbridge is electric as the darkly funny game show host of You Oughta Know, which also featured audience participation and consequences as it slammed ignorance about world issues.
Last night’s show ended with a third set, where the ensemble did some rounds of improv; riffing off audience suggestions with witty word play and a scene that took us from a barber shop to France in a wacky trip of hair styling and relationships.
With shouts to set designer Camillia Koo for the awesome Gardiner Expressway structure and graffiti art; and to SM/lighting designer Meg Maguire for keeping things moving along smartly, and snapping us in and out.
Lightning round social satire that burns so good in Second City Toronto’s hilariously insightful Come What Mayhem!
Take a look in the Come What Mayhem! mirror and laugh – it sure as hell beats the alternative. For show times and tickets, check online.
Written and Directed by Justin Haigh, Behold, the Barfly! is a step into the mind of an unconscious bar patron, as we travel into his hilarious and sometimes bizarre dream world. Goofing around with sharp social commentary and poking fun at human foibles, it’s all about making sense of a crazy world. The fun and games features scenes that play with Shakespearean text and language, deconstruct popular song lyrics, and present segments of a news magazine show that covers the current state of the world’s nonsense.
The energetic, sharp-witted and playful ensemble features Elizabeth Anacleto, Jeff Hanson, Steve Hobbs, Kevin MacPherson, Marsha Mason, Eric Miinch, Ned Petrie and Sarah Thorpe. These guys really give ‘er, bringing to life hilarious characters and situations – from a child-like face painter struggling to hold down a job, to a serial killer stand-up comic wannabe, to a family trip to the Ontario Science Centre gone awry, to the members of a support group who get caught up in an Agatha Christie-inspired whodunit. And there’s a special celebrity guest in the program that you’ll just have to see for yourself.
Sketch comedy shenanigans and witty wordplay to make sense of the nonsense in wacky fun Behold, the Barfly!
Behold, the Barfly continues at the Monarch Tavern until July 10, with a show every night at 7 p.m.
For ticket info and advance tickets/passes, check out the Fringe website.