Good comedy isn’t just for laughs; it makes humorous the things we’re worried about. It also reminds us that while the world is oftentimes a place you need to enjoy, at other times it's a place you need to partially reimagine or block out to live sanely in. Uncalled For’s new sketch comedy show, Playday Mayday, delivers in these regards, with vivid writing in a polyphony of voices, sketches with clearly delineated worlds, and across-the-board performances of a genuine humanity.
The show is about five friends who rediscover their imaginations when they start using them again to play games after losing their smartphones. The sketches divide the games they play — ranging from faves like Twister, staring contests, and playing spaceship, to more personalized ones like having an imaginary friend — into groupings that are charged with fresh metaphorical electricity.
Colin Munch’s vulnerable performance as a smitten toddler awaiting a play date, practicing what he’ll say to his beloved Abigail (Caitlin Howden) in the mirror for when she arrives, paired with her affair with his imaginary friend (Anders Yates), puts a reinvigorating twist on children’s lit tropes by filling out their traditionally flat characters with adult anxieties.
Munch, as a fast-talking gun salesman, and Matt Goldberg, as his overzealous customer, provide us with the magic of an entire gun store appearing out of nothing but the commitment of their hilarious gestures.
The duo use only their hands as props and their voices for gunshot noises. In so doing, they question firearms’ unchecked influence on children, achieving an especially sobering impact by applying a gun enthusiast’s meticulousness to just how their gun noises are supposed to sound.
In the fashion princess sketch, Anders Yates works it something fierce as a vogueing royal surrounded by snapping paparazzi. His performance brings the catharsis because he’s all in from moment one, but also because Playday Mayday’s transitions are so slick they need a Slippery When Wet sign.
By having Yates’ character feel a little shunned after only a brief appearance playing pop-up internet ads in the previous sketch, we are set up to hope for his redemption and gifted it immediately after. This is the craft of comedy laid bare, the contract between performers, the audience and the artful treatment of their expectations revealed as another game it encourages us to play.
Living up to its title, the characters of Playday Mayday embed a layer of unease and desperation into how they joyously frolic about. This reflects political unrest and the fear of missing out that comes with rapid technological advancement.
These are recurring motifs in the show, but the rest of them come from a sense of how, even though we say life's too short to not be having a constant ball of it, it's more difficult to enjoy for a whole host of grownup reasons. This is a thought I couldn’t shake witnessing the generous, self-affirming product of five grownups with busy lives, plus those behind the scenes, dedicating more continuous time to the idea of having fun than they perhaps ever have before.
Playday Mayday runs until Dec. 4 at Theatre Passe Muraille. For more information, visit: https://www.artsboxoffice.ca/.