Strapless is a sketch comedy revue featuring a quartet of performers. It’s playing at the George Ignatieff Theatre as part of the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival. The all-female cast performs a series of sixteen sketches covering a range of topics, including the good, the bad and the ugly of relationships, pop and performance culture, and what women (and men) want.
The show opens with the four women performing an Irish river dance in shifty halter tops and green pasties. The woman beside me is a person who frequents the Toronto comedy scene, and she laughed uproariously through the dance. Unfortunately, the chortles soon stopped short.
The audience was generous and entertained, and they laughed more than I was compelled to. Perhaps it’s the cynic in me, or perhaps I’m used to comedy that works harder to impress, but I found Strapless to be uneven, mediocre and tepid overall.
The transitions between scenes were uninspired blue-outs that lasted twice as long as they needed to. Most of the premises were murky and failed to deliver a punch. There were some good characters throughout, but they could not thrive in their weakly developed sketches.
The writers and performers are from out of town, but they use local references either to curry favour or to convince us that they’re clever. References to Marineland, Casino Rama and Jilly’s are too self-conscious for my comfort. Self-reflexive references to the Toronto Fringe Festival and the all-woman sketch show made my eyes roll.
On a much more positive note, there were some stand-out scenes. I really enjoyed the post-coital conversation between a couple who literally say exactly what they mean. Another winner is an ensemble scene, where one performer introduces what she needs from her partner and a chorus sings her desires. The third is a solo scene in which a yoga instructor is on the third day of a bender, and reveals the intimate details of her disintegrating marriage.
There are good moments of physical comedy, most notably in the opening, in a musical theatre scene, and in a sketch where three characters are hanged by a medieval executioner. Each performer has at least two funny and solid characters and my favourite performer, hands down, is Jackie Blackmore. Blackmore is a chameleon in her different roles as a man, woman and child. I was charmed by the subtlety and precision of her choices and emotions.
I would recommend the show to anyone curious about comedy from the West Coast of Canada, but Strapless needs to log more performances before they become great.
July 02 at 10:30 PM
July 05 at 07:00 PM
July 07 at 01:00 PM
July 08 at 06:30 PM
July 10 at 12:00 PM
July 11 at 09:15 PM
July 12 at 05:45 PM
Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online by phone (416-966-1062), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West). Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Photo of Strapless by Beatty Oie Photography