November 2007

Women Fully Clothed
Directed by John Hemphill

Kathryn Greenwood, Debra McGrath, Jayne Eastwood, Robin Duke and Teresa Pavlinek

Nov. 16 – Dec. 8, 2007 Winter Garden Theatre Toronto
Sketch Comedy Rocks Winter Garden
by Lesley Mitchell-Clarke
Kicking off a 2008 National Canadian Tour, and currently holding forth at Toronto’s magnificently restored Winter Garden Theatre is perhaps the finest sketch comedy troupe that anyone is likely to have the good fortune to see. Canadian superstar Eugene Levy has referred to them as “the five funniest women in Canada”. The fact that the troupe is composed of five proud X-chromosome bearers makes them unique, and allows them to explore situations onstage that are perhaps previously unknown to their more profane male counterparts. The refreshing, cleverly-written and tightly performed theatrical event is presided over by five duennas of the entertainment world who (in addition to their common experience as members of our national comedic treasure Second City) have made their respective marks in television, animation, film, improvisational comedy and the legitimate (and sometimes not so legitimate) theatre.

The five exceptionally talented and versatile cast members include sought-after Gemini Award winning character actress and founding Second City member Jayne Eastwood; Emmy and Juno nominated film and television actress, Saturday Night LIVE! alum, humour columnist and educator Robin Duke; writer, producer and ACTRA Award-nominated stage and screen actress (and wife of uber-talented comedic actor Colin Mochrie) Debra McGrath; Gemini-nominated and Dora-winning comedic actress Kathryn Greenwood and (late of Gemini-nominated The Jane Show) actress, Dora-nominated member of Second City, producer/writer and performer Teresa Pavlinek.

The stark stage morphed into situation after situation, and through the clever use of minimal costuming, inspired lighting and minimalist prop usage, the talented performers took the audience on a virtual trip of the imagination — in the word of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a sort of “Coney Island of the Mind”.

The hilarious vignettes (brilliantly co-written by Eastwood, Duke, McGrath, Greenwood and Pavlinek) featured various cast members in small ensembles, as well as several pieces involving the complete company. Stand-out bits include a Yuppie pre-school board meeting featuring all of the cast members (my personal favourite); a trio of old biddies (McGrath, Eastwood and Duke) canoeing and portaging their way to a remote Muskoka location where they scatter the ashes of their mutual dear friend and deal with a big secret revealed; a past-her-prime former couture dress shop owner of unknown European origin (hilariously rendered by Robin Duke) who now finds herself working for an 'Urban Outfitters' type store along with a flock of microphone wearing twenty-somethings (headed up by an equally hilarious Jane Pavlinik); a tap-dancing and singing Debra McGrath; a struggling psychic trying to run her business out of her kitchen while coping with a teenage daughter and a dolt of a husband and a great bit about a widow (brought to life by the always entertaining Jayne Eastwood) who decides to express herself with some questionable original poetry at an 'Open Mike' night — much to the chagrin of her adult daughter — played by the versatile and spot-on Greenwood.

The primarily female audience went crazy for Five Women Fully Clothed, and the all-too-brief performance received a well-deserved standing ovation. This inspired sketch comedy troup serves up humour of the highest order that easily cuts across any kind of demographic by holding wide appeal for all members of the human species — male or female, or anything in between.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Lesley Mitchell-Clarke
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