In Classy Lady, Sandra Battaglini commands attention from the moment she appears onstage belting the title song, and holds it throughout her two-hour solo show. She doesn't just reach out to the audience; she dropkicks the fourth wall using cheekiness, charm and wry observations - in killer high heels, no less.
The show weaves together stories, jokes and video to explore and deconstruct societal perceptions of women. It's shaped by personal accounts of Battaglini's family roots in Italy, her Catholic upbringing in Sudbury and life in Woodbridge. The videos, made collaboratively with director Phil Luzi, contain the strongest character-driven material, including a mock perfume ad co-starring Luzi. Another is based on real-life interviews with female employees from the Inco nickel mines during WWII.
Battaglini confronts sensitive topics audaciously. Her anecdotes about dating and sex are full of original observations on this well-worn subject. She jokes about her empty uterus and posits ideas about Jesus that certainly aren't taught in any Sunday school. Fellow fallen Catholics and those not easily offended will find her irreverence heavenly.
Luzi keeps the pace brisk even when moving between video and live segments. The dresses and costume changes are amusingly diva-esque. And Hanna Puley's retro rec-room set includes a padded cocktail bar that allows Battaglini to take a drink whenever she needs one, while leaving enough space for physical comedy.
The show stumbles in the writing, though. Despite her great delivery, the live sections sometimes feel superficial. Battaglini's funny personal stories would be enhanced by deeper reflection. Segments on American politics, with prolonged riffs on Michelle Obama and Mitt Romney, belong more to the stand-up stage. And the ending comes too abruptly.
Still, though some sound and video glitches (which no doubt will be fixed) marred opening night, Battaglini rolled with it all, improvising her way through and remaining unruffled.
Now, that's class.