Review by Sharon Letovsky
Returning to the stage for the final act of her Wit’s End trilogy; Sandra Shamas, the Sudbury, Ontario-born author of the famed 1980’s smash hit, My Boyfriend’s Back and There’s Gonna be Laundry, does it again. How this woman, alone, devoid of props save a chair, a small table, glass of water and a fan, kept us in stitches for two solid hours is beyond the scope of my comprehension.
I cannot tell a lie. I went to this show with an ulterior motive. Three years ago, I wrote a musical comedy CD. My cousin Sandi, with whom I had sung in a girl group umpteen years ago, said that Sandra Shamas got her start at a Fringe festival (Edmonton). Why didn’t I write a one-woman comedy show around my songs and perform it a Fringe festival? Then maybe I could be a smash hit too! Great idea, Sandi!
Well, I wrote the show and performed it at the Hamilton Fringe. Unlike Shamas, I was not a smash hit. As a matter of fact at the last show there were five people in the audience and three of them were comps! But Danny & Terry Gaisin – theatre/concert critics and creators of this Review, gave it a great write-up and we became friends. Hence my new part-time career as a reviewer rather than comedienne!
So I claim a bit of knowledge on the art of writing and performing standup comedy. I wanted to know what Shamas did that I didn’t, so I could learn from her for the next time (Ha!). Sandra Shamas got people laughing from the get-go. The one-liners were popping out so fast, I could barely keep track. Touching on everything from puberty, to menopause, to organic farming and her coveted little red tractor, she had us eating out of the palm of her hand.
But what was it, “what was the magic?” I asked the friend who accompanied me. Like this show, mine spoke of life’s trials & tribulations and encouraged people to laugh in the face of challenges…then move on. What is that quintessential something that Shamas has that draws a sellout crowd and keeps them coming back for more? Yes, there is a lot of reference to breasts and pubis, accompanied by exaggerated gestures, and f*** every second sentence, both of which draw laughs every time. But of course it is way more than that. I believe it is her blatant honesty. She talks to us as if we were sitting across from her over coffee. It is a hysterically funny conversation, and we feel a part of it, even though she does all the talking. There is an intimacy there and we feel we are her friends. We end up loving her and wanting to see her again so we can laugh some more.
But don’t let her ease and familiarity fool you for one moment. This is hard work. Clearly she spent a great deal of time crafting her show, but then she took it out west and work-shopped it in front of a Saskatchewan crowd. She tells us she chose a group of western farmers deliberately because she assumed they would have a more serious disposition. They would laugh only if a joke was really funny. Then she told us that if a line did not get a laugh, it got cut.
Make no mistake about it, stand-up comedy may seem easy, but it is a tough game. Shamas wrote, directed and performs this show, and her effort shows… it is fantastic. Wit’s End III is running at Ottawa’s NAC April 10th-14th. Because of sell-out audiences, a matinee has just been added on Sunday, 15th. Don’t miss her!