WIT'S END II: HEART'S DESIRE written and performed by Sandra Shamas. Presented by Shamas at the Winter Garden Theatre (189 Yonge). Runs to November 2, Wednesday-Saturday 8 pm. $25-$48. 416-872-5555. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
At the top of her new show, Sandra Shamas says, "My name is Sandra Shamas and I am 45." Is there any other performer who could get applause simply by announcing her age?Shamas, of course, has built a career out of such revelations. In some ways her shows resemble confessions -- look at the construction of that first line. It's what you say at AA meetings. "I've survived, you can, too."
In Wit's End II: Heart's Desire, she proves she's earned every one of her lines -- on her face and in her show. She's damn proud of them, as a matter of fact. Too bad they don't add up to anything original this time out.
Billed as a sequel to her last show, which chronicled her divorce from the man with all the laundry and the purchase of her 123-acre farm, Heart's Desire feels looser. There's less momentum and not much of a structure, although there are metaphors aplenty, ranging from clearing out the unwanted trees in your life to learning how to wait out the doldrums.
Shamas's storytelling skills are as strong as ever. She hooks us with the opening tale about turning 40 and having a nude portrait done, keeps us giggling and nodding our heads with stories about farmers and how to work a chainsaw, then sends us off smiling with a checklist of life lessons she wants to pass on. Shamas as shaman.
More than any other performer, she combines an urban sophistication with no-bull down-home wisdom. Who else could describe stacks of hay as an art installation? Or a simple tree-cutter's body as having a built-in ottoman?
The thing is, we've come to expect all this from Shamas. There's nothing new here, and what's absent, especially in the second half, is the heart alluded to in the show's title.
The tree-cutter, Ray, a man she bonds with after learning he's a divorcee too, takes up a big chunk of the show's first half. Then she briefly mentions his death in the second. How did he die? What did Shamas feel? We never learn and it's a huge missed dramatic opportunity.
Guess we'll have to wait till the next installment of her ongoing performance piece to see how she deals with mortality.