Toronto SketchFest 2019 review: Soul Decision, D.J. Mausner and more

One of the most welcome recent SketchFest additions has been full-length shows for acts that already have a following, or.

One of the most welcome recent SketchFest additions has been full-length shows for acts that already have a following, or lots of experience, and warrant an hour-long slot.

That’s certainly the case with Soul Decision (rating: NNN), Kevin Vidal and Christian Smith‘s sharp, energetic sketch duo who had a single Sunday evening performance March 10 due to Vidal’s busy schedule (he’s in Come From Away eight times a week).

The pair have an undeniable chemistry, their rhythms honed from years of performing together. Some sketches morph into others with little preparation something that keeps us on our feet, certainly, but often means a sketch hasn’t had time to sink in before another one starts.

There are several narrative threads: one involves two male high school friends who, with one of them heading off to college, see their friendship in jeopardy another is about two contrasting office workers.

While each sketch has a nice shape and tension look for Vidal’s monologue about Much Ado About Nothing the narrative threads don’t always come together in a satisfying way.

But whether they’re miming a basketball game or pretending to be at the theatre in a very clever Come From Away joke that calls back to an earlier scene, the two are always watchable and focused.

Geri Hall and Gary Pearson are two comedy veterans Hall is a regular on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Pearson was a writer on Mad TV and Corner Gas. Their full-length sketch show Middle Raged! (rating: NNN), part of it excerpted at the festival on March 13, attempts to get laughs from getting older.

The two, who play a couple here but aren’t one in real life, deliver solid chuckles that wouldn’t seem out of place on mainstream TV, whether they’re planning a special “date night” away from the kids or preparing a will kit.

Some of the longer bits are full of imaginative touches, like the sketch about two scientists coming up with models for intelligent design, or one set in Ikea after it’s revealed that the store’s founder had ties to the Nazis.

But many of their sketches rely more on costumes than solid writing. (I’m looking at you, Game Of Thrones scene.)

Best are the song parodies, accompanied by keyboardist/guitarist Jeff Rosenthal, especially a clever spin on this year’s best song Oscar winner.

D.J. Mausner‘s credits include Just For Laughs, JFL42 and writing for Baroness von Sketch, and she’s done stand-up, sketch and improv. All of that was evident from her remarkable solo show March 13 at Comedy Bar (rating: NNNN).

Frank and fearless, Mausner enjoys taking the piss out of entitled and delusional straight males whose inarticulate ramblings mask deep misogyny. There’s her angry spokesperson for Bad Boy furniture, or her weeping, increasingly drunk travel vlogger whose banal list of the best tourist spots reminds him of his ex. Most effective is her incel, who delivers a fucked-up song (complete with the chorus: “Reddit Reddit Reddit”) that reveals his incestuous feelings towards his mom.

I haven’t mentioned the liquid props Mausner uses to enhance her characters’ desperation (and instill a bit of fear in the audience members in the front row).

This is razor sharp, disturbing, relevant and cathartic satire from one of the most exciting young comics I’ve seen in years. She’s also got plenty of range, such as her bizarre pet shelter owner (I think) who (nice detail) seems on the verge of sneezing every few seconds. And her song about the deaths of Sandy and Danny from Grease sung to Summer Nights was hilariously twisted and cleverly written.

I can’t wait to see where she goes.

On the same bill as Mausner were Low Rise Queens (rating: NNN), a fresh all-female troupe who have enviable energy but need a bit more discipline in their performance and writing. They’re very big on mugging, whether they’re parodying old-time sitcoms (in their weak opening bit) or when to say “when” when the waiter grates cheese on your pasta (although that sketch did producer a clever song).

Whether parodying young women’s dynamics or young men’s, this trio (Anna Smith, Erica Gellert, Rachel McLatchie) are amusing observers of millennial lives.

The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival continues until March 17.

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