This evening I visited the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace to see 13 Ways The World Ends, a sketch comedy show by Good Morning Apocalypse company currently running in the Toronto Fringe Festival. I was curious about what I would find, since 2017 has been a stressful year for a lot of people, including me, between frightening political trends and reports of war from around the world and the fear of some kind of imminent environmental catastrophe. Could these sorts of fears, these insecurities about the very future of life, really be the raw material for humour? It can: 13 Ways The World Ends demonstrates this quite well.
13 Ways The World Ends begins with a scene of two mothers with babies strapped to their chests, who casually hack apart the zombies that stumble toward them as they catch up on what’s new in their lives. This opening sketch sets the stage for the show, which moves smoothly from one scene to another, each one absurd and funny and, yes, apocalyptic in its own way. In one scene the audience might learn what a man’s anti-robot prejudices (“No robo”) actually conceal, while in another a distracted family gathers together to witness the end of the sun.
This is a very tight show. The script, written by Brendan Main and Colleen Waltenbury, moves with appropriate speed within each scene and between scenes, never getting bogged down by the details of a particular scenario. Director and stage manager Betony Main likewise deserves recognition for the clean and simple design of the stage on which the action takes place. 13 Ways The World Ends is always very watchable.
The cast of five is uniformly strong, each putting in great character performances. Deanna Palazzo and Karen McFarlane quickly caught my attention in the opening sketch, and then Bryan Piitz placated a wife upset with his old friend’s robophobia with just the right degree of awkwardness. The way Todd McFarlane portrayed the last human being still in material form after the technological singularity, too technologically illiterate to play solitaire and confused by his family’s exhortations to join them in the machine, made me laugh out loud. I was particularly taken by a recurring character played by James Dalzell, a survivor of a nuclear war happy to be stranded in a bank vault where he could finally find the time to read uninterrupted, or so he hoped (Tap dancing was involved, among other things).
13 Ways The World Ends succeeds. This show proves that it is quite possible to make a fun sketch comedy about the various threats to our existence. Theatre-goers who want relief from these fears would do go well to see this show. Laughter does make everything that much better.
- 13 Ways the World Ends is playing until July 15 at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. (16 Ryerson Avenue)
- Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible.
- July 5th at 6:30 pm
- July 7th at 8:15 pm
- July 8th at 10:15 pm
- July 9th at 4:30 pm
- July 11th at 1:30 pm
- July 12th at 8:30 pm
- July 13th at 8:00 pm
- July 15th at 2:45 pm
Photograph of Todd McFarlane, Bryan Piitz, Deanna Palazzo, James Dalzell, Colleen Waltenbury, Brendan Main, and Karen McFarlane by Nate Lacroix.