BWW Review: The Female Experience Exposed - and Hilarious - in Second City's SHE THE PEOPLE
What happens when you get a group of talented women together to write a show? Over a dozen sketches that reveal the funnier aspects of being a woman.
SHE THE PEOPLE is Second City Toronto's latest show, directed by Carly Heffernan and featuring a master-class ensemble of writers, actors, and comedians. Sketches cover everything to do with womanhood - from representation in commercials (Paloma Nuñez stands out as the 'Woman in a Boner Commercial'), to workplace equality, to backpain caused by a too-tight bra. The writing is incredibly witty - often subversive - and constantly hilarious.
The cast isn't afraid to be silly, made obvious by Karen Parker's sketch as a fed-up businesswoman clad in an inflatable T-Rex suit at a meeting. Parker delivers some of the funniest physical comedy in the show as she sashays around the stage, tiny arms and all. The complete rage in her delivery makes the already ridiculous scene that much funnier.
It's easy to see that the writers took a lot of inspiration from the current #MeToo movement, including a sketch where a woman (Tricia Black) wakes up from a 10-year coma and her wife (Ann Pornel) has to break it to her that all her heroes were horrible people. Black's spit-take is perfect and Pornel should be commended - it can't be easy to stay in character when you've been spat on half a dozen times.
Despite the overwhelming amount of strictly comedic sketches, SHE THE PEOPLE is willing to get their hands a little dirty. Sketches covering rape, harassment and a woman's right to choose to have a baby were all covered in thinly-veiled pieces. The exchange between Parker and Pornel stood-out, where a teacher must explain to a young girl that because she couldn't really prove a boy pushed her during recess, her claim could be ignored and people would mistrust future allegations. The largely-female audience was more responsive to this piece than any other, likely for its brutal honesty and the writer's smart choice to scale back on the comedy.
Although the show was written about women by women, they also aren't afraid to go after the opposite sex. The best sketch in this context was the golf-bro performance (featuring Ashley Comeau, Kirsten Rasmussen, and Tricia Black). As the group of grown-up frat boys drive their cart from tee to tee and celebrate "Miller Time" at each hole, they discuss some big life moments - one's girlfriend is pregnant, another is going to propose - with a boyish dumbness. Rasmussen's facial expressions are incredible, and her bro-tone is a perfect caricature of the group of men she's mocking.
While the entire cast shines, Rasmussen and Black are standouts for completely different reasons. Rasmussen has mastered a wide range of characters, and her 'quirky' girl was especially memorable - likely because she selected my table-mates and myself as her targets for the sketch, singing about how one woman was amazing, and I was...well...not as memorable. (It was really funny, and I loved taking the brunt of the joke.) The entire character was brought to life convincingly by Rasmussen, and I'm sure that 'Quirky' will resonate with a lot of younger audience members.
Black's roles were often very similar - she plays the swearing, tell-it-as-she-sees-it goofball, but it doesn't get stale because she's just that good at it. As the woman having a meltdown at a restaurant because she mispronounced charcuterie ("I'm smart! I read! You've seen me read!" is one of the most relatable and funny things I've heard in months), and in every sketch, even as minor roles, she stole the spotlight with her vocal and physical delivery.
Seeing a show with an entirely-female creative crew and cast is rare, and it's obvious that this crew cares deeply about the content. It takes a lot of talent to guide the audience through harsh topics while cracking jokes, and while sometimes a bit severe, they are constantly respectful of the subject matter - likely because it's all based on real female experiences.
At the end of the day, SHE THE PEOPLE is a great collection of sketch and improv comedy put together by a great team of writers and comedians. I can almost guarantee that every woman (and probably most audience members, regardless of gender - or lack-thereof) will find a way to relate. Maybe you know that 'woke' girl at brunch, or maybe you're also turning into your mother, or maybe you've had your own share of "Miller Times" with the boys. This is a show that does what good comedy should do - take everyday, commonplace situations, and make them hilarious.
SHE THE PEOPLE runs through November 25, 2018 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, Ann Pornel, Kirsten Rasmussen, Tricia Black, Paloma Nuñez, Ashley Comeau. Photo by Paul Aihoshi.