Review: The Pageant (Bad Dog Theatre Company)

Toronto’s Bad Dog Theatre Company serves up raunchy “quick and dirty laughs” just in time for the holidays

ThePageantWith the holidays just around the corner, it’s really quite fitting that the Bad Dog Theatre Company’s latest production is all about the frenzy often associated with Christmas celebrations. The Pageant – A Very Special Holiday Episode of a Totally Improvised Sitcom – opened Friday to a packed house.

And like the other plays I’ve seen from this company, viewer discretion is strongly advised.

There was no subject matter that was off limits during this one-hour piece. From drug abuse to taboo sexual escapades, all topics were fair game.

The Pageant has all the charm and crass I’ve come to expect from Bad Dog Theatre Company. Every time I’ve been in the mood for a quick and dirty laugh, Bad Dog has always delivered – and this latest play is no exception.

Centered on the holiday festivities of an average family, the premise of this show isn’t anything overly remarkable. But what makes this play memorable was the quick wit and improvisational skills the cast used to turn even the most mundane situations into laugh-out-loud, over-the-top, what-the-hell-is-actually-happening moments.

None of the jokes fell completely flat and each gag earned substantive chuckles from the crowd, this was due to the amazing synergy between the improvisers.

Watching the cast riff effortlessly off each was like watching clockwork – every joke built successfully from the last without missing a single beat.

A few of my favourites of the night included Kayla Lorette for her endearing performance as the teenage daughter and Alistair Forbes as the awkward teenage son. What I loved about Lorette’s performance was her ability to act completely sweet and innocent while saying the most ludicrous things. There’s just something so appealing about having that dichotomy.

As for Forbes, his main strength was being able to say the most random things at the most opportune times. While the rest of the cast would zig, he would zag and lob jokes out of left field that would leave the crown in absolute stitches.

But the stand-out star of the night was one Ms. Kirsten Rasmussen, who played the family’s emotionally charged mother.

Whenever there was the slightest bit of dead air, Rasmussen’s sharp wit and intellect allowed her to swoop in and save the day, salvaging skits that would have otherwise fallen flat. She was the cohesive force that allowed the entire ensemble to work so well together.

The only criticism I have of this production, was the lack of audience input. Only twice were the audience asked for suggestions taken during the play. Now, this didn’t necessarily detract from the quality of this show, but usually when something is billed as improv, there’s usually more of an interactive vibe.

I think having more back-and-fourth between the improvisers and the crowd would have made the pacing a bit tighter, adding a layer of spontaneity to help keep the audience on their toes. As the play progressed, the premise started to feel a bit stale to me.

That aside, The Pageant is definitely one of the strongest Bad Dog productions I’ve seen to date, as well as one of the most enjoyable comedies I’ve seen this year.

For those interested in more family-friendly entertainment, Bad Dog offers a kid-friendly matinee of this production. Given the graphic nature of the performance I saw, I’m definitely curious to see how all the adult subject matter gets tuned down. Kick your holiday season off to a hilariously raunchy start. Go see this play.

Details:

  • The Pageant is playing until December 20th at the Bad Dog Comedy Theatre (875 Bloor Street West)
  • Shows run Fridays at 8:00 PM and Saturdays at 9:30 PM, with Saturday family-friendly matinees on December 13th and 20th at 2:30 PM
  • Tickets are $10 for students, $12 for regular admission and $25 for a family pass (2 adults and 1 child)
  • Tickets are available online or at the door

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