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The cast from She the People, clockwise from left: Kirsten Rasmussen, Ann Pornel, Ashley Comeau, Karen Parker, Paloma Nunez, Tricia Black.

Paul Aihoshi

  • Title: She the People
  • Written  by: Carisa Barreca, Alex Bellisle,  Marla Caceres, Katie Caussin, Carly Heffernan, Maria Randazzo, Rashawn Nadine Scott, Tien Tran, Kimberly Michelle Vaughn, Lauren Walker
  • Director: Carly Heffernan
  • Actors: Ann Pornel, Ashley Comeau, Karen Parker, Kirsten Rasmussen, Paloma Nunez, Tricia Black
  • Company: The Second City
  • Venue: Second City Mainstage
  • City: Toronto
  • Year: Runs to Nov. 25, 2018

rating

The title of a new sketch comedy review at The Second City is She the People, billed as a “girlfriends’ guide to sisters doing it for themselves.” The performers are all women, the writers are women, the director is a woman, the music director is a woman, the stage and lighting manager is a woman and the stylist is a woman. The person at the box office was a dude, and he wasn’t funny at all.

During an introductory number, the six female cast members – delightful hams, all of them – brought up the wage gap and the fact that U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence calls his wife “mother” as evidence that women are not seen as equal to men. They then spent the rest of the spry, sharp and frequently hilarious show proving their equivalence in the funny department at least.

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Made up of previously performed scenes from the repertoires of the Chicago and Toronto companies and running concurrently with the hit mainstage revue The Best is Yet to Come, the She the People show considers the female predicament while gently (but undeniably) lampooning patriarchy.

I was quite taken with cast member Tricia Black, a current member of Toronto’s laugh merchants The Sketchersons. When a female character gets a break-up text, her friends trash the guy in solidarity. “He lost his virginity in a Subway shop,” one pal says. Black’s character is much more vicious, pointing out the dubious fact that the boyfriend was a murderer. Why didn’t they tell their friend about what a loser the guy was previously? A code of silence is in effect when it comes to trash-talking a current crush.

We later find out that the boyfriend is the twin brother of Black’s character. That doesn’t stop her from saying that “he’s killed before, and he will again.” The point of it being that blood is thick, but female friendship is thicker.

The absurdity of sexist television commercials is a point of frustration. Shaving legs is portrayed as “sensual me time” and, wait, how did those butterflies get in the shower?

A baby-mother yoga scene is strong. One woman says she was in labour so long she went through menopause while giving birth. Another one pledges that she’ll breast-feed her baby boy for an extended period of time – until he grows up, gets married and his wife can take over the chore, actually.

She the People is made up of previously performed scenes from the repertoires of the Chicago and Toronto companies – with a twist.

There’s no zinger in the Tyrannosaurus Rex sketch, but you’ll laugh Jurassic off anyway. In another scene, a woman is horrified at the realization that she’s turning into her mother. After all, she’s too young to start pickling.

The premise of a woman who comes out of a 10-year coma is simple at first laugh. Every time she’s told about a male transgressor, she does a spit-take. Bill Cosby! Morgan Freeman! Kevin Spacey! But at what is she expressing surprise? That those men (childhood heroes of hers, we are told) are bad dudes? Or that a man would ever be held accountable?

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If the question of accountability isn’t explicitly at hand in the first set, it is after an intermission. When a girl is pushed by a boy at school, her female teacher uses it as a learning experience. Did it really happen if nobody saw it, the child is asked. A boy can cry wolf many times, she is told, but people will stop believing women the first time. She’s preparing the child for the real world, and says that it will get better. “Actually,” she says on second thought, “it gets worse.”

I wonder if that sketch was written before the #MeToo movement alluded to in the coma sketch. Things can get better, right? But then again, the coma victim is also told that Donald Trump is now President of the United States. Her reaction is to wish she could go back into a coma. Which is a natural reaction, and increasingly, a common desire. Another option is to laugh at the absurdity of it all, which is what She the People does best of all.

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