BWW Review: DEAD PARENTS SOCIETY finds laughter in grief at Buddies in Bad Times
DEAD PARENTS SOCIETY is a sketch revue show about mourning. Each skit addresses the death of a parent, the mourning process, going back to work or dating after loss. The premises are grim. The pain is real: each of the performers has lost a parent. The mood is anguished. And the show is hilarious.
I don't think I've ever seen a piece of theatre with so dark a premise produce so much howling laughter from its audience. In that sense, DEAD PARENTS SOCIETY is brave and ingenious; it goes where the theatre is usually afraid to go, and it brings us with it. Is it okay to laugh at orphaned children? Can grief be sexy? No, but yes. As I learned last night, contradictions and paradoxes abound in mourning - a side-splitting show about loss makes perfect sense.
The jokes in DEAD PARENTS SOCIETY fire in all directions, taking aim at insensitive coworkers and overly-sensitive friends, at the banalities and hyperboles of grief, at the oddness of human psychology, at cancer itself. (By the way, fuck cancer.) The skits are short, the jokes are punchy, and lines are crossed often. The Lion King gets multiple callouts. Madonna gets sampled. There is music. There is dancing. The premise and promise of DEAD PARENTS SOCIETY is that you can confront grief by laughing your ass off.
It's worth mentioning that Buddies in Bad Times is the perfect venue for a project like DEAD PARENTS SOCIETY. While most theatres in Toronto have pledged to support diversity and inclusion, Buddies has been there for decades. Last night, I clapped and cried along with people of all ages, races, sexual and gender and identities, and physical abilities. One audience member told me after the show he felt bad about laughing so hard at one of the bits.
"It was the one where the girl was dancing with the urn, you know, it was the father-daughter dance, and my mom died six years ago, and I just thought, it just made me think of if I did something like that. And I laughed so hard, and I feel bad about that, I thought maybe I saw people looking at me."
"Dude," I said, "It's Buddies. No one is judging you, just do your thing."
His name was Jonathan, and he hadn't known what to expect from the show when he bought a ticket.
I asked, "Well, what were you hoping for when you came here?"
"I was hoping to laugh."
"Did you laugh?"
"I did. I laughed a lot."
DEAD PARENTS SOCIETY RUNS throughs 2 NOVEMBER at BUDDIES IN BAD TIMES THEATRE, 12 Alexander Street, Toronto.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit buddiesinbadtimes.com
Photo credit: Katherine Fogler