Unwrapped delivers a mixture of pleasant presents and lumps of coal

Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs

Staff Writer

Hot from Second City Toronto’s stage, Unwrapped is sure to channel your inner holiday cheer.

The performance opens with a musical number featuring the entire cast outlining the humdrum aspects of winter: shovelling your driveway three times in one day, seasonal affective disorder and dreadful gift shopping. The cast’s devoted energy to this opening sets the tone for the entire performance and works as the saving grace for some skits that wound up to be a lump of coal.

The show marries traditional holiday tropes with non-holiday related skits that provide social commentary, but the script does not always land on the actors' feet.

In one of the earlier skits,  Brandon Hackett and Roger Bainbridge's attempt to avoid watching the movie Selma, highlights societies emphasis on culturing oneself for the wrong reasons. In this case, the pair feels obligated to watch the movie because it is deemed an “important film” that deals with heavier topics. While the message is relayed well, the skit seems to drag on and might have benefited from being placed a little further down the list.

Likewise, Ann Pornel and Bainbridge's skit about everyday sexism at a bus stop seems a little out of place for the holiday show. I found that this skit in particular was hard to follow and a little lengthy.

It was nice to have the entire cast on stage for the piece about the Canadian senator’s family posing for a photo. Similarly, Hackett and Alessandra Vite's tired husband and tipsy wife late night bedroom scene proves to be very comical (the ridiculous crouton crunching sound effects might have something to do with that).

The non-holiday skits do have their moments as well. Pornel and Vite’s adopted child bit is good for the energetic absurdity and bizarre reach.

Pornel brings tidings of great joy for the audience with her versatility. Whether it is playing the drunk wife, a guy who doesn’t realize that he is being crude, or a girl struggling with Tinder nightmares, Pornel’s smiles and sheer excitement is a gift for the audience. P.S. “Netflix and chill means sex.”

Lindsay Mullan's Virgin Mary monologue is a beautiful addition to the show. She whines about Jesus' deadbeat dad and delivers witty zingers. While she brings about some of the best laughter, it would have been nice for her to have travelled down to the audience for more interaction.

Hackett serenades the audience with his attempt to craft a holiday song that honours the diversity of all religious beliefs. In a city like Toronto, this secular song makes a strong argument against loyalty to only saying holiday greetings such as “Merry Christmas.”

The skit about holiday screw-ups at an airport winds up being one of the wittiest pieces, showcasing top-shelf excuses by actors hoping to one-up their competition and receive the last ticket to travel back home. This skit also highlights the reality of many stress-filled individuals who forget the joy of the season and instead become a little high-strung.

Each night after the show the cast performs an improv session, which will no doubt leave viewers rejoicing. It is easy for any improv set to quickly turn into the best part of the evening.

Unwrapped is like a gift from a secret Santa. It might not be everything that you’ve always wanted in a holiday gift, but it’s still good enough to re-gift. 

 The Second City: Unwrapped runs until Jan. 1.