Review: The Script Tease Project (The National Theatre of the World)

by George Perry

The National Theatre of the World is currently undertaking an ambitious project at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, The Script Tease Project. Over the course of six days, the improvisational troupe will be performing 10 “different” plays.

They will be performing 10 different plays in a week which they are largely improvising.

Comprised of Ron Pederson, Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram, The National Theatre of the World is being compared to The Kids in the Hall and Second City. The show reminded me of Who’s Line Is it Anyway?

All three performers are incredibly talented and charismatic.

The trio has invited 10 renowned celebrities to write the first two pages of a play. The pages are sealed in plain manila envelopes, with only minor theatrical cues and hints revealed before the trio takes the stage.

The night I attended, Judith Thompson wrote the first two pages. Her play is titled Red Pepper Raw. It is the story of a brother, a “flouncy” sister and a transgendered person. They run out of gas in The Rockies on their way to their mother’s fourth wedding. It was great fun!

There’s a heck of a lot I like about this undertaking. I like the braggadocio of the trio for even approaching celebs to write for them. I love that the famous artists took the time to write the first two pages of each play.

There are also things I don’t like. They call it “improv”, but it feels more like watching Oprah or Ellen. Sure, they are incredibly skilled performers, but at times it seems like they are relying upon their tried and true “chops”. It seems a little safe and patronizing at times.

The trio asks the audience members what is on their minds beforehand. Then they work the thoughts into the “play”. Sniekus gets a laugh with one particular joke and then recycles it a couple of times. It feels a bit like hearing a salesperson say my name over and over again.

It is improv after all, so some ideas come from the audience. A “star” sets the scene. Maybe it isn’t lazy, but certainly the word “gimmick” comes to mind. I felt like an outsider, not part of the “in crowd”. Ellen and Oprah give away cars; Snieckus invites the crowd out for snacks.

I really like the charisma of Pederson, Baram and Snieckus. It’s fun to be in the same room with these people for an hour or so. I would like to see all 10 performances and see where the project takes them.

The over-achieving The National Theatre of the World will be busy this summer. In addition to their busy weekly schedule they will be travelling so people south of the border will have the opportunity to experience their brilliance this summer.

Details:

The Script Tease Project is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille Backstage (16 Ryerson Avenue)
– It runs until May 29 (details below)
– Ticket prices range from $15.00 (students) to $20.00
– Tickets are available online, by calling 416-504-7529 or at the door

May 24, 8 p.m. (Judith Thompson)
May 25, 2 p.m. (Linda Griffiths)
May 25, 8 p.m. (Daniel McIvor)
May 26, 8 p.m. (Woody Harrelson)
May 26, 9:30 p.m. (Hannah Moscovitch)
May 27, 8 p.m. (Brad Fraser)
May 28, 2 p.m. (Morris Panych)
May 28, 8 p.m. (Mark McKinney)
May 29, 2 p.m. (Norm Foster)
May 29, 8 p.m. (John Patrick Shanley)

photo by May Truong

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