by Jenna Rocca
Following up on the success of Something Wicked Awesome This Way Comes, the Second City Toronto’s latest main stage offering, This Party’s a Riot, brings the sketch-comedy to a new level of wickedness!
While I feel that this show is thematically tighter than their last, and ultimately more satisfying, the performers still serve up the same level of dedication and precision to every scene. They really are the life of this party.
The show opens with a rompish mockery of contemporary club culture. The chaos of this first scene sets the tone for the celebration and commentary on the debauched joy of contemporary living that is the sum of the show.
The morning after, the disheveled party participants agree that they can unflinchingly put all the pics from the previous night on MySpace because no one cares about that site any more. They are later able to participate in the Egyptian revolution online and never even exit their homes.
This kind of subtle and more directed political satire was a welcome shift from what I felt was a bit more unfocused commentary in their last show.
I was particularly fond of a very apt sketch that pokes at the most free-wheeling partiers of all, the Baby Boomers. The seemingly ageless Rob Baker casually slips into his role as the well preserved wild-child who has no interest in retiring, even though he doesn’t need the money.
This is all very frustrating to Adam Cawley, the over-educated, over-worked, debt-ridden Gen-Yer, who struggles to find work and really has only been taught to master the click of a mouse.
An elderly Kris Siddiqi steps in to diffuse the conflict while discussing his own generation’s trials and tribulations. The sketch simmers off without the tidy conclusion for which it begs.
Cawley is most effective when emotionally distraught, as he demonstrates in one of the riskier pieces. The trauma escalates to much hilarity when his over-planned threesome goes wonderfully awry: a swinging Barker appears in the place of a female.
Cawley starts off as confident and conniving to an accepting Inessa Frantowski, the permissive girlfriend. But he believably descends into desperation as the sketch unfolds. This piece hits a great crescendo as a conclusion to the show.
Between zombie apocalypses, a “Super-Hot” Yoga class led by a believably asexual Siddiqi, a fun improv piece wherein an elderly couple asks the audience for assistance in recounting the story of their meeting, and some sister-to-sister drama over a “vajazzling” girls day out, there were some genuinely riotous moments of laughter from the audience.
My partner Bill was particularly taken by the many faces of Frantowski, a master of horrified and disgruntled grimaces. Whether playing a resolute hoarder, being led through the audience who are addressed as her possessions (the cheaper items are kept in the upper level), or the as an exacerbated office worker who asks for “all the kinds” of donuts, she totally steals her scenes.
A final hurrah comes in the form of an audience participatory “improvised” bit. “Protect your shit,” is all I’m gonna say.
The Second City cast members are all beautiful but they are not afraid to look unbeautiful. It is refreshing to see such fearless performances and I only wish I could say that I do more often.
I think the whole show is structured in a very well plotted escalation and woven together with virtuosic mirth by musical director Matthew Reid.
This is a Party you don’t want to miss!
– This Party’s a Riot is currently scheduled until June 30th, plays at 8pm from Tuesdays to Fridays, and at 8 pm and 10:30 pm on Saturdays, and 7 pm on Sundays
– tickets are $12 to $29
– student tickets are also available for $15
Photo: Rob Baker, Adam Cawley, and Inessa Frantowski by Marcel St. Pierre