BWW Review: Ladies of The Second City Return with a Vengeance in SHE THE PEOPLE: THE RESISTANCE CONTINUES
The women of The Second City return to the mainstage to present SHE THE PEOPLE: THE RESISTANCE CONTINUES, a follow-up to 2018's SHE THE PEOPLE. While the cast and creative team remains mostly the same as the original show, this reimagining explores a wider scope of true-to-life comedic scenarios. Under direction of head writer Carly Heffernan, the broad capabilities of the actors and creative team were utilized to fully translate the female experience in 2019.
Returning to the stage are ensemble members Tricia Black, Ashley Comeau, Paloma Nuñez, Karen Parker, Ann Pornel and Kirsten Rasmussen. As per Second City standards, each actor led several sketches to great success while balancing absurdist, wacky comedy with societal and political issues. Exaggerations on the female experience remain realistic, with one highlight being a look at the group getting ready for a night out. Nuñez takes charge as their commanding officer and grills the lineup on what they will and will not do with the common goal of not getting murdered, making a real concern among women into something funny without taking away from the seriousness of the issue.
In another sketch, Rasmussen and Pornel are male mechanics creating issues and additional costs for their female clientele. The caricature is exaggerated yet believable, and the contrast between their gibberish jargon and Parker's blunt character, followed by a great deception on Black's part, might just influence women in the audience during their next visit to the mechanic.
Apart from some of the more critical pieces in the show, there are numerous sketches that lean on The Second City's long running history with music, with music direction by Nicole Byblow. A highlight for any musical theatre fan is the Lamaze birth coaching class sketch, during which the expectant parents and their instructor are interrupted by a group of musical theatre performers, led by Black, in an accurate rendition of a well-known Les Miserables number. Black also takes charge during a song criticizing people for assuming and projecting heterosexuality onto babies and children to great payoff - and the inclusion of a doll, used to interact with the audience, brought another level to the already great vocals and relatability of the subject matter.
The return of a few concepts from the original SHE THE PEOPLE like the Rasmussen-led "You Oughta Know" game show and Parker's inflatable t-rex suit were good call backs to the initial work. Parker shone in her follow-up, going from a businesswoman to a party attendee who chooses to dress as a dinosaur. The addition of a pearl necklace to the costume is a nice touch and she is still able to balance anger and humour exceptionally well.
While this new show is chock-full of original concepts and funny moments, it felt as though there was a bit of a disconnect with the audience following intermission. It didn't take the cast long to regain attention and laughs, and the act two closer where Comeau calls Ontario's Deputy Premier Christine Elliot to make a case for a topic of the audience's choosing (our performance selected education). It was a great way to involve the audience in the final moments of the show, and the reminder to keep fighting against societal norms and setbacks connected all the night's themes in a way that felt natural and genuine.
SHE THE PEOPLE: THE RESISTANCE CONTINUES is a solid sequel to the original with a wide range of stories that likely any audience member will be able to relate to - whether they allow you to laugh at yourself, situations you've been in or heard of from the women in your life, or just reflect on what it means to be a woman in 2019.
SHE THE PEOPLE: THE RESISTANCE CONTINUES runs through September 14 at The Second City's Toronto Mainstage Theatre, 51 Mercer Street, Toronto, ON.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit https://www.secondcity.com/shows/toronto/she-the-people-5/
Photo credit: L-R Karen Parker, Tricia Black, Kirsten Rasmussen, Ann Pornel, Paloma Nuñez, Ashley Comeau. Photo by Samantha Hurley.