One of my favourite Toronto theatre activities is to pick a night to show up at the Bad Dog Theatre at Bloor & Ossington and just park it. I camp out all night, 8-12. I see three shows and get a few drinks all for very little money. I spend the half-hour breaks between shows hiding with a book in the corner booth of the overwhelming lobby full of very merry people who all seem to know each other. In the summer there’s baseball on the TV, in the winter the best sport is people watching.
Last Friday I saw my first Bad Dog shows in far too long. It was a great lineup, a diverse mix of offerings all of which proved delightful despite my ridiculously specific taste in improv (I was once informed that I “don’t like comedy” which I’m pretty sure was just this person’s semi-polite way of calling me a drag. In any case, it’s rare for me to be all-in on three out of three shows in one night; this is notable). Unfortunately, the 11pm show- Lady Mary and the Marquis van Shyzer, a dry musical comedy duo whose best jokes are pointed and bold, their worst still good for an ironic chuckle- was one night only so the best I can do is point you to their Facebook page and keep an eye out for future appearances.
The 8pm and 9:30pm shows are still playing, though not for long. You have another three Fridays to catch Scenes from the City, my favourite of the evening’s offerings, recognizable to fans of La Grande Jatte and Toronto, I Love You as the latest in director Julie Dumais Osborne’s series of deeply humanistic location-based formats. A uniquely well-balanced and cohesive ensemble dives deep into the details of an audience-suggested location, somewhere in Toronto that they associate with a particularly strong winter memory. From there they weave intricately interlocking stories and utilize film-style narration to facilitate transitions and flesh out the world of each scene. The teamwork of the cast is what stands out most in this stellar show, each and every one of them stepping in to play a tree or a window ledge or whatever the scene needs; no one sits on the sidelines waiting for their chance to take the lead, they’re all in it together all the time. It’s rare to see such intuitive collective work at an opening performance so I expect they’ll only get better from here.
Moon Base Wayward– the 9:30 show that only has one more performance- operates totally differently. The all-star all-female cast plays out improvised scenes, mostly two-handers, based on live narration from director Evany Rosen. The penultimate episode of this serialized adventure about a stranded crew and the potential threats aboard their space ship focused mostly on Hannah Spear’s android character and the confusing maybe-murder she’d committed the previous week. Spear is startling in the role, as she always seems to be, composed and natural and boldly unexpected. The comedic standout is Kayla Lorette who takes over the stage as the ship’s rough-edged mechanic, the most thoroughly developed of the evolving characters in the story. Wayward is a troupe of unshakeable quality, a rare slam-dunk ensemble with talent coming out of their eyeballs and pound for pound probably the best group of improvisers you’re likely to see together on one stage in the city. But that all-star quality gets a little overwhelming at times, detracting from the impact of the team as a whole. The jokes come hard and fast in Moon Base Wayward, and the continuity factor cleverly spurs you towards the next episode, but I missed that ensemble feeling where at any moment the funniest person in the room might be found playing a tree, propping up someone else’s laugh.