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Review: MISSION TOTALLY POSSIBLE at Comedy Bar Danforth

It's totally possible to laugh watching Second City's newest mainstage show.

Review: MISSION TOTALLY POSSIBLE at Comedy Bar Danforth

With the world on fire in so many different ways, we could all use a good laugh. Second City's new mainstage offering at Comedy Bar Danforth, MISSION TOTALLY POSSIBLE, provides one, and then some. Directed by veteran musical improviser Ashley Botting, six talented and high-energy performers (PHATT al, Andy Assaf, Andy Hull, Nkasi Ogbonnah, Hannah Spear, and Jillian Welsh) play off each other well, using clever wordplay and a blend of the familiar and unexpected to create a crowd-pleasing show.

Though MISSION: TOTALLY POSSIBLE! is not billed as explicitly political, it wears a progressive heart on its sleeve. The animatronic Hall of Prime Ministers at Fort York degenerates into havoc when someone accidentally sets the rapping PMs of past and present to "truth mode." A blastocyst cheerfully informs us through song that we don't need to have a child with a dissolute oil-changing Lothario if we don't want to. There are jokes about poor mask-wearing etiquette and climate change, and a delightful lifelong lesbian love story where our heroes have more troubles with allergies and angry birds than homophobia.

Even Second City itself isn't above criticism, as Ogbonnah gets rueful laughs by telling us exactly how many Black women have graced its mainstage shows. (Spoiler: not many.) It's satisfying to see crypto-bros and systemic inequality get lampooned; since the audience is already largely on the same page, though, there's a chance to take the satire even further.

Instead, most of my favourite sketches came with an appealing aspect of wistfulness and humanity to them that added depth to the humour. Hull delivers a pitch-perfect monologue as a hockey bro at a high school reunion; stuck in his Parry Sound hometown, he explains the joys and pitfalls of fatherhood to his Toronto-living former classmates with a hilariously limited vocabulary. Hull's sweet earnestness, and the range of emotion that flickers behind the overemphasized manly jocularity, pull the sketch above simple caricature.

Similarly, Ogbonnah and al as adult grandchild and traditionalist grandmother somehow manage to create a genuine relationship out of granny's Bible-thumping guilt trip that makes the tension between them even funnier. As well, Welsh's defiant cry as she chooses a life of love and hope over bigotry may bring a tear to your eye during Pride month.

Not everything is sweetness and depth, though, and that's a good thing; a scene where Ogbonnah, Spear, and Welsh ham it up as three salacious church ladies wishing to "feel the Holy Spirit" is a double entendre-filled stitch, and Ogbonnah's dry delivery of a Powerpoint rating astronauts by hotness is out of this world funny.

A highlight of the show is the placement of callbacks throughout, which make its eclectic collection of sketches feel more cohesive. A scene in the first act between Spear and Welsh where we hear one character's insecure thoughts against the other's cool composure gets a particularly good mirror in the second, reminding us that we never really know what other people are thinking. Audience participation is minimal, but the troupe makes the most out of a protracted bit where a religion is created out of Mad Libs-type answers.

Physically, while the action is largely contained to the stage, the performers use the entire building in a live video segment that creatively opens up the space. The new Comedy Bar venue in the East End is sleek and spacious; hopefully, it will gain a strong audience base before its Second City guests depart for their new home downtown.

If there's any disappointment, it's that the show's opening number and overarching attempt at a theme are a bit bland, feeling more like the writers decided a framing device was necessary than a driving force that tied things together. It might have been a better choice to either just embrace the chaos or find a clearer through line.

However, with a rousing musical finale, high-octane energy that doesn't come from an overpriced gas pump, and fresh doughnuts delivered to your table, it's more than totally possible to have a great time.

Photo Credit: Kate Eddy

From This Author - Ilana Lucas

Ilana Lucas is an English professor at Toronto’s Centennial College. She holds a BA in English and Theatre from Princeton University, and an MFA in Dramaturgy and Script Development from Columbia... (read more about this author)

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