Sandra Shamas’ one-woman show is wondrously funny
Titles are important, and in great theatre they can be highly symbolic. This came to me as I watched, and thoroughly enjoyed, the superior comedian/writer/producer Sandra Shamas – surely one of the great talents of Canada – in her last of a fine trilogy of shows, Wit’s End III: Love Life.
The first two words of the title form the name of a farm north of Toronto which she loves passionately and which gives her life meaning; the latter is an urging to all of us to truly “love life,” which she has slowly learned to do, with profound wit, thought, pleasure, pain and struggle over her half-century-plus of life on earth.
Shamas is a genius in many ways; simply observe her determination to create nearly two-hour “shows” in quality theatres like the Winter Garden, and to produce them herself rather than live the life of most freelance comics, appearing in comedy clubs for a few hundred bucks a night, where hecklers abound. She knows, too, how to capture an audience’s focus and admiration by speaking to them directly and intimately, with truth, depth and exquisite timing, leaving them with deep thoughts and a better understanding of how to be human in an often inhumane world.
She walks out onto the nearly bare stage, her face radiant, her thick, curly hair hanging down past her shoulders (going grey gracefully and determinedly), wearing an all-black outfit, smiling, with her fabulous face, prominent nose and endless physical gestures.
She pauses, then turns to the audience and says, “It’s a very expensive set.” Within seconds, she launches into the horrors of being one of the many 11-year-old grade six girls dragged into a special room to watch a film entitled “You’re Becoming a Woman.” The audience of nearly a thousand (over a third of them smiling men) howls with non-stop, healing laughter as she moans about menstruation: “Once a month for 39 years!” and then murmurs, “There’s no menopause movie called ‘You’re Becoming a Hag Now.’” She does uproarious visual “takes” as she acts out the agonies of hot flashes and other joys of aging womanhood, including new longings to eat garbage: “I’m having a Kit Kat and a Junior Mint for dinner!”
The first “act” is perfection; the second is uneven but more challenging, and often even more personal. “Welcome back!” she waves, as she returns to her empty, “expensive set,” and blurts out, “I live on a farm that I love.” We hear how she tracks down a tractor “two and a half storeys tall.” She talks of meeting a new potential lover at a party, noting that “The guy was chewing with his mouth closed! I am setting the bar high.” Pause. “I don’t want a normal relationship; I want a GOOD one.”
As the hundreds of people filed out of the Winter Garden, most of them had bodies aching from laughter, their minds whirling with insight and thoughts to share with their partners on their way home. It’s not what we usually think of as traditional theatre, but what more can we ask from any evening?
By popular demand, Ms. Shamas has held the show over to April 3, after having to skip the week of March 14, due to the theatre not being available. Shamas is a treasure, and this is one of her best presentations.
Allan Gould is Post City’s theatre critic