Comedy is not just about timing. Y’know what’s an equally important ingredient?—energy! Tales of Whoa! presented by Not Bad Abe Productions at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse is all about perfect energy, and it never falters—not once! If high energy sketch comedy is your thing, this is one show not to miss at Toronto Fringe 2013!
The set-up is fairly sophomoric, but that’s really not the point. Sketch comedy needs to be framed—it’s just a structural thing. The frame is just a necessary evil, much like the prep-work required before a big party; it must be done so that you can then relax and have a good time with your friends, knowing your house won’t fall apart while you’re acting like crazy people.
The sketches are a riotous exercise in madcap physical comedy with an absurdist sensibility. Kudos to Kyle Scott, Leigh Cameron, Stuart Vaughan, Lara Johnston for some top-notch writing and performance, and to Ken Hall for some sturdy direction.
We are shown how courting a family doctor is much like throwing yourself into the dating scene. We are given a sense of just how uncomfortable a modern ethnically diverse game of Guess Who? might be. And we witness a disastrous encounter on a downtown TTC bus.
I love well-executed physical comedy. Ridiculous shenanigans are like a drug to me. People shouting, falling, throwing costumes on and off at break-neck speed—these are my intoxicants-of-choice. And this team of comedians—at the top of their game—are the perfect dealers!
This cast knows each other well, and—most importantly—they enjoy each other. These people are having a good time! And they are allowing us in on the joke. Comaraderie is contagious, and this team has it in spades!
The energy never—and I mean never!— lags. And yet, it never remains one-note. While most of the show is quite frenetic, there are key moments when the show draws you in to some quiet intimacy… and they hold those moments for just long enough to surprise you with some goofy twist.
Even during potentially awkward scene changes that could have brought the momentum down, the cast instinctively knows how to “work it.” There is an acknowledgement of the mechanics of stagecraft that they incorporate—brilliantly—into the dynamic of the show.
With props and set-pieces strewn haphazardly across the stage, there is a wonderfully zany “Mr. Dressup” vibe to the production that keeps the momentum high.
The finale is one Hot Mess! If you have a taste for the ridiculous, for an hour of unbridled screwball wackiness culminating in a scene of utter gut-grabbing hilarity, then this is the show for you.
There is even some audience participation for those who are adventurous enough to want to be included in the antics. These moments are tame and infrequent enough not to alienate those who are wary of such interactive experiences.
Tales of Whoa! is my favourite type of sketch comedy—where it feels like you’ve gotten drunk with your friends and are riffing on life and people. This is clever insanity. And it’s—So! Much! Fun!
- Tales of Whoa! is playing at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse (79 St. George St.).
- July 3 – 8:15pm
July 6 – 1:45pm
July 7 – 3:15pm
July 10 – 12:00pm
July 11 – 11:15pm
July 13 – 7:00pm
July 14 – 4:00pm
- Individual Fringe tickets are available at the door for $10 ($5 for FringeKids), cash only. Late comers will not be permitted.
- Advance tickets are $11 ($9 + $2 service charge) are available online at fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062 ext 1, or in person during the festival at the Festival Box Office in the parking lot behind Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor St W).
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows
Photo of Leigh Cameron, Lara Johnson, Kyle Scott, and Stuart Vaughan by Quantel Wronski