The loss of one’s parents is probably the most dreaded, expected life event for most people. I do not really like to talk about it for fear the Grim Reaper will suddenly jump up and snatch them as though summoned. Dead Parent Society is about finding healing through humor in this intimate, grief-themed sketch comedy show.
The show opens with a comedic song. I’m reminded of the kind of dark Monty Python song that starts off light but pay close attention to those lyrics. It is an attention-grabbing opener and most of the performers have enough vocal facility to pull out off.
From there the 5 member comedy troupe works solo, in pairs, or as an ensemble to present a comedic homage to a deceased parent. All of the sketches are clearly drawn from personal experiences with this devastating loss.
All cast members are far younger than any of us would wish to be when we face this grief and it is clear that their parents’ deaths were untimely. The monologues and dialogues have the unmistakable ring of authenticity. The sketches address societal discomfort with death and grieving people, the ups and downs of moving on, and the void that is left behind when someone who has supported us since birth is no longer there.
I realize this doesn’t sound at all funny, but I laughed out loud for most of the hour. Not every sketch landed for me personally, but the beauty of good sketch comedy is that when it resonates, I am all in. The bit about weight loss was hilariously real and Shohana Sharmin takes down the treatment of the grieving and fatphobia with one tidy stone. Jackie Twomey’s eulogy to her father, known for his flatulence within her family, was a moving balance of high and low comedy.
Many sketch shows feature a recurring bit. Dead Parent Society’s nefariously unhelpful “Grief Fairy” (Anne McMaster) did not stand out for me in her first appearance but throughout the show Grief Fairy became one of the most effective recurring bits I have seen to date. Just when you think she is done with an exasperated King Chiu for good, she rears her fiendish head again. Exactly like actual grief, but way more funny. Her dramatic, red satin bathrobe was also the most effective usage of costume in the show in my opinion.
The show closed as it opened, with a lively group sing. On the whole, very smart comedy with excellent delivery and timing.
I walked out of the theatre feeling relatively light given the subject matter, and perhaps feeling like the pain of death was a little bit easier to look at.
Photo of Carolyne Das, Shohana Sharmin, Jackie Twomey, Anne McMaster and King Chiu by Katherine Fogler