The Weaker Vessels: Public Displays of Narcissism (A-)
The Weaker Vessels offer everything you could want from a sketch show. Smart, precise, and razor-sharp, the troupe skewers our narcissistic tendencies and self-absorbed culture. Standout sketches include an exasperated TTC conductor who can’t get the last two passengers off of an out-of service train, a clever flip on dirty talk in the bedroom, and a gorgeous sketch about a young man asking the moon for advice. Second City alum Lance Byrd, Jeff Clark, Nadine Djoury, Matt McCready, and Colin Sharpe each get a chance to shine and the troupe has sold out every show so far, so you’ll definitely want to buy your tickets in advance. One caveat: apparently, “non-traditional love is hilarious” and there are a few queer jokes that are really just unnecessary and off-putting, including a young gay man who runs screaming (and flapping his arms effeminately) from a teacher who demands that she ask him out and a reference to a girlfriend who is “very bisexual” when it rains. It’s not hilarious, actually. It’s lazy and disparaging and, most of all, disappointing.
Folk Lordz (B)
Todd Houseman and Ben Gorodetsky’s Folk Lordz uses a multi-narrative, long-form improv structure that is equal parts funny and impressive. Using the styles of a Cree origin story, a Chekhov play, and an audience selection (mine chose After School Special), these two energetic and engaging performers spend approximately 40 minutes building three completely distinct stories simultaneously. Their transitions are particularly excellent, often using a physical moment of connection to flip between the stories. Gorodetsky bounces around the stage, down the stairs, and climbs the obliging Houseman; the two have good chemistry and rapport. The Cree and Chekhovian styles occasionally force the two into exposition rather than action, but I was definitely charmed enough to plan for a second viewing.
Washed Up (B-)
Joanne Latimer’s one-person Washed Up is a deceptively simple tale of a woman stranded on a beach, giving her a quiet moment to reflect on her hectic life and her great regrets. Latimer is immensely likeable, especially in her most vulnerable moments: the loss of her friend, reliving her thwarted desire to be an artist, experiencing her changing relationship with her children and her students. The piece has a few challenges, including a clunky framing narrative complete with seagulls that are often little more than an excuse to tell an unrelated anecdote and too many near-rescues from passing boats and planes that distract from Latimer’s journey. Nonetheless, Washed Up is a lovely escape for an hour of quiet reflection that will definitely inspire you to pause and consider your own choices.