Claire Armstrong (left) and Katelyn McCulloch get big laughs in Liver.
LIVER by Kat Sandler (Slab Collective/Theatre Brouhaha Labs/Red One Theatre Collective). At Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor West). Runs to May 16. $25. secureaseat.com. See Continuing. Rating: NNNN
The prolific Kat Sandler is back with Liver, a very funny look at the changing situation of Andrew (Shaun Benson), a dead man whose body, donated to science, is carved up in a demonstration for medical students of how to remove a liver.
But Sandler's playing with more than medicine here. The guy comes back to life when Lacey (Katelyn McCulloch), whom medical assistant Glen (Michael Musi) met on Tinder and who is gruesomely fascinated by all things morgue-related, starts meddling with his corpse. Andrew, formerly a heavy drinker, may have lost his scarred liver, but he himself is a liver, too.
Throw in Glen's boss, Halik (Sean Sullivan), and Rachel (Claire Armstrong), an anxiety-ridden woman from Andrew's past, and the result is a fast-moving show that runs riot through topics including necrophilia, immortality, medical experimentation and the appeal of a 20-something girlfriend over someone in her 30s.
As sharp a director as she is a writer, Sandler plays skilfully with rhythms, barely letting the audience catch its collective breath from laughing so hard. She raises serious philosophical questions about ethics and the individual versus the general good, but these aren't as powerful as the comic scenes.
There are so many plot twists, it's not fair to say much more about the story, but let me focus on the fine cast, who interact so expertly you'd think they'd been collaborating for years.
Benson manages to be both dislikable and appealing as the angry Andrew, always with an eye on the liquor bottle and the ladies, while Sullivan's prim, manipulative, competitive Halik knows just how politic a research physician must be. Musi's bewildered, sometimes naive Glen has fine chemistry with McCulloch's inquisitive, hustling Lacey.
But it's McCulloch and the excellent Armstrong who have the play's most memorable scene, where they go through a bottle of Malibu rum while discussing concentration camps, their ages and what it takes to be a mistress. Comments become more stinging and outrageous as they down shot after shot of liquor. The result? Comedy at its best.