Review: The Big ‘What Now?’ (Sandra Shamas/Panamania)

Sandra Shamas  The Big 'What Now?'

Sandra Shamas brings her latest comedic installment to the Toronto Young Centre

Sandra Shamas premiered her new show – The Big ‘What Now?’ at the Young Centre on Wednesday as part of PANAMANIA. The audience of proudly menopausal and post-menopausal women — and a few men — greeted her with a hooting, hollering, foot-stomping ovation.

We love Sandra Shamas. She tells our lives. She’s smart, observant, thoughtful, introspective, and very funny.

It took her a few minutes to get going but the audience was with her all the way. We didn’t mind. We were there to hear the next installment in the story of her life. We knew it would be worth the wait. And it was.

She started by telling us the things she had to leave behind as she was climbing Menopause Mountain: alcohol, caffeine, and a little bit of her memory. She warned us that she had asked Heather — the stage manager — to prompt her if she got lost in the telling.

Shamas doesn’t tell a story in a straight line. She starts off, she zigs and zags a bit, and then she gets to the end. And it’s not that her life is that funny, it’s that she see the humour in her life.

This isn’t stand-up. It’s autobiographical story telling.

The show had a different feel than the last time I saw her perform in 2011 at the Winter Garden. I’m not really sure what it was. It was a bit less polished but not in a bad way.

At the beginning, she told us that she hadn’t seen her own show yet so she really didn’t know what to expect. Maybe it was because it was the first time that she was performing it in front of an audience.

The first time I saw Shamas perform was about 27 years ago when she did My Boyfriend’s Back And There’s Going To Be Laundry. I was in the middle of a severe depressive episode – not that I knew it or had words for it; that would come later. I cried as much as I laughed.

When I saw her four years ago there were no tears, even though I was recovering from another depressive episode.

I didn’t cry last night but there were a few times when I could feel the tears welling up.

Early in the show Shamas talked about the gift she received from menopause. She got her anger back. I think that was the difference. The show had more of an edge; I like that.  My friend Elaine commented on it after the show. She said that she could feel the undercurrent of anger. It added strength to the performance.

She talked about reading an insurance brochure that described the stages of life, the things you were supposed to be doing at various ages. It ended abruptly at 60. Retirement. And then nothing.

It made her think about what came next and that she hadn’t done things in the time frames that were in the brochure. She talked about learning to swim in her forties, about not starting to make her bed every morning until she was 49. And about realizing that was all ok.

Along the way she told us about her septic tank backing up, about the ice storm, about online dating, and about mutton dressed as lamb.

I loved the show. Shamas tends to do trilogies, I hope I’m around for the next two.

All of the remaining performances are sold out. I suppose you could go to the theatre and hope that someone doesn’t show up.


Photo of Sandra Shamas provided by the company