Much like any good piece of jazz, I find that good comedy usually puts me in a state of vulnerability before it throws something at me that I wasn’t expecting. This was particularly the case with The Weaker Vessels' production of Unsolicited Advice.
Joining the comedy troupe in their fifth revue, Unsolicited Advice takes its audience for a ride with its finely paced humour and its off-beat subject matter, keeping the audience prepared for nothing and laughing at the results.
Though my first impression of the venue was left on me once I had entered the theatre, the show began immediately before, as the usher announced that there were no beverages allowed in the space. This was immediately followed by “be sure to chug your beers outside and get super fucked up.” It was at this point that I was expecting a rowdy audience, which I felt was fit for the setting. Upon entering the theatre, I realized that not only the audience was perfect for the occasion, but so was the theatre. Small, cramped, and yet intimate, the warm little studio space felt as though it was meant for this type of performance, keeping the audience close and bringing them closer with what was to come.
The performance opened with a small musical number, emphasizing the theme of the show, and transitioned into the sketch material, with a blackout between each sketch. What I found worked particularly well were the five to eight second vignettes that made an appearance after about every four or five sketches. The vignettes consisted of one of the cast members stating a horrible/strange piece of advice that usually followed a silence and a blackout.
My favourite of these vignettes happened to have been that of Nadine Djoury, whose sarcastic tone complimented both her delivery, as well as balanced the performance of her fellow cast mates.
What I loved about these short vignettes in particular was not only the impeccable timing of the performers, but the way in which they helped the overall flow of the show, creating a steady wave of humour, feeding each sketch into the next.
The confrontational subject matter was most definitely a highlight of the performance as well, particularly within the intimate environment in which the performers were given. I found that the audience (including myself) responded particularly well to the sketch involving the overly apathetic eulogist (Matt McCready) towards the end. The sketch summarized the strengths of the entire performance.
The segment consisted of a eulogist whose job was to glorify the deceased in memory of him, but really, the eulogist just painted him in the same mediocre light as anyone else. The questionable subject matter of death strengthened much of the expectations for delivery. As the eulogist continued speaking, he brought on old acquaintances of the deceased who had played insignificant roles in his life, which really helped pull forward many of the cast members and displayed not only their strengths as performers, but the way in which their chemistry painted an overall picture on the stage and complimented the others' strengths.
All in all, I’d say that apart from the few jokes that may have passed me by, as I had a hard time deciphering some of the baseball humour, the show could not have thrived the way it did without the undeniable chemistry and talent of its performers. I hope that in the future I can see this group of performers create something new, as I can most definitely see myself tuning in again.
Unsolicited Advice, directed by Frank McAnulty, played at Fraser Studios from Jan. 29 – 31.