A SMALL BATTALION OF SOLDIERS written and performed by Sandra Battaglini, directed by Mark Andrada. Tim Sims Playhouse (56 Blue Jays Way). Thursday and Friday (September 18 and 19) at 9:30 pm. $10. 416-343-0011. Rating: NNNNN
Sandra Battaglini's last name translates as "small battalion of soldiers" in English. But she won't be fighting too hard for laughs in her latest one-woman show. The Sudbury-born performer's a natural comic. In her improv work, she knows how to get to the honesty of a scene, the pain that makes us laugh all the harder.
Those same instincts should make this multidisciplinary look at her life growing up Italian-Canadian in a mining town both funny and bittersweet.
The show consists of a series of anecdotes about Battaglini's life, along with video segments, some clown turns and audience participation. There's even some dance.
"I come out dancing to a Michael Jackson song," she tells me before her performance of Tony 'N' Tina's Wedding, where she play's the mouthy mother of the bride.
"I grew up adoring Michael Jackson. I was convinced that he said my name in the song Billy Jean. He was one of my first loves. The other one was Ken, but I wasn't allowed to play with Ken, so I cut the hair and bit off the breasts of a Barbie doll to make a male doll. These were formative experiences in my sexual and romantic life."
The piece, created with comic Mark Andrada, begins with a mock history lesson about the genesis of Sudbury and includes chatty digressions about everything from the mayoralty race to how Battaglini's parents met.
"The family mythology has it that my mother's sister convinced her to marry my father because he had really nice hands."
While Battaglini enjoys hiding behind comic characters such as Tina's mom, she's getting hooked on the honesty required for stand-up and clown.
"I want to be more truthful onstage," she says. "I want it to be like I'm with my friends, shooting the shit and being a jackass in a really free way."
And why are there so many Italian comics these days?
"Most of us are first-generation Canadians," she explains. "We're expressing all the awkwardness we felt as kids. People relate to that."