The one thing you should see this week: an old-fashioned variety show by Toronto’s top improv troupe
This week’s pick: The Carnegie Hall Show by the National Theatre of the World
Canadian comedy can be hit and miss, but when it hits, it hits hard. After all, the Kids in the Hall and the Canadian contingent of Second City were arguably the two finest improv troupes to ever grace the stage, and Halifax’s Picnicface is poised to splash its hipster-friendly sketch and improv comedy all over the Comedy Network this fall, followed by a feature film and book release.
The National Theatre of the World is a local trio made up of Naomi Snieckus, Matt Baram and Ron Pederson (of MADtv), whose infectious, springy comedy has made them most revered company in the city right now. The NTOW turns familiar theatrical structures on their heads—The Soaps is a live soap opera, and in their anchor show, Impromptu Splendor, the troupe performs an entire improvised play in the style of a particular playwright (everyone from Chekhov to Judith Thompson has been parodied).
This Wednesday is your last chance (for now) to catch The Carnegie Hall Show, the NTOW’s glorious, glamorous and gut-busting throwback to old-time variety shows (it goes on hiatus after this week). The troupe—joined by regular guest and professional deadpanner Chris Gibbs—dons tuxedos and ball gowns to adopt the smarmy, exaggerated pose of vaudeville folk, first performing some free-form improv and then recreating a live improvised radio play. A sly layer of self-reference lurks just below the hyperactivity, the comedy of yesteryear becoming fodder for the comedy of today. Interspersed within the improv are opera singers, can-can dancers, acrobats and mimes, and bigger names like Colin Mochrie, Ron Sexsmith and Allie Hughes have been known to appear.
The show can get so intensely zany that the troupe’s remarkable discipline could go undetected. But these are professional performers at the top of their game, creating something fresh out of the idiosyncrasies of established forms. Don’t miss it.
The details: Wed. Aug. 24. 9 p.m. Pay what you think (after the show). Bread and Circus, 299 Augusta Ave., thenationaltheatreoftheworld.com.
N.B.: This is also one of your last chances to see a show at the charming Bread and Circus performance venue, which is closing its doors for good this weekend.