I was completely intoxicated by the end of this show . . . with laughter. My new roommate and I went to see the January 15 episode of Sin City: Bedlam-By-Sea, knowing hardly anything about each other or the show we were about to see. We’re now those people who slap each other’s backs in public and smugly announce, “You had to be there.” If you like Fawlty Towers, Monty Python or laughing, check this out.
Sin City is a live improvised comedy show playing at the Victoria Event Centre weekly until May 28, 2013. The show, created by Ian Ferguson and Kirsten Van Ritzen, will progress in 21 weekly episodes. Though the setting has been pre-determined and the characters selected, there has been no performance rehearsal whatsoever.
The play follows a cast of 14 characters who work and visit the pub-hotel Bedlam-By-Sea in an English seaside village. Even though my roommate and I missed the first episode, we felt included in the story immediately thanks to Ferguson’s direction and the improvisers’ reincorporation of the previous week’s material.
The Jan. 15 episode was total chaos. Hotel owner Rupert begins the annual employee evaluations, sending the staff into a panic. Chambermaid Estelle is banished to three days’ vacation. Estelle has never left the hotel before and seeks the advice of social icon and pipe maker Colin. The hotel manager Sunnee and barmaid Gwendoline argue over the designation of chores, and Peter the Porter begins stealing the hotel’s spoons to build an airplane. Dolly the sexually-charged lorry driver shocks the Colonel. Hotel guest Nigel the asthmatic doesn’t do much. Rupert announces the upcoming Dancing of the Seals Festival. Visiting rock star Simon composes a song entitled “Lemondrop Flower,” disjointedly sung by the whole cast at the end of the show.
Needless to say, they stuffed a lot into two hours, but my occasional confusion was quashed by the hilarious dialogue. The actors wasted no time, no lines and no space on the stage. I was impressed by the use of levels and props in the play, especially in Peter the Porter’s musical spoons segment. Musical Director Alexander Brendan Ferguson accompanied the show with live music on top of sporadic sound effects. It seemed like the lighting technicians were preoccupied, but the actors poked fun at it with comments like, “Why won’t this lamp turn on?”
The set included a simple bar, a Victorian-style bedroom and a painted ocean background. The ocean backdrop was unnecessary and distracting. The wave sound effects and strong dialogue established the setting well enough. The bar and bedroom could have been even simpler; an improv show doesn’t need much else outside of strong characterization. The costumes were well coordinated, from the wigs to the accessories.
Wes Borg as Peter the Porter stole the show. While some actors occasionally lost their accents or cracked half-smiles, Borg was so intently in character that he looked like he might pop a blood vessel. His wittiness seemed to rub off on the rest of the cast as well, who pulled out their A-game when he was onstage. Karen Brelsford added a youthful twist to the show, playing Gwendoline the barmaid with confidence and charm.
The easygoing audience encouraged the actors as well. At one point even Ferguson starting laughing with the rest of the room. The show attracted a mixed audience, from the “newly-weds” to the “nearly-deads.”
Sin City is the kind of show that you could attend alone, with a friend or a total stranger. Better than a bar and better than a movie…because it’s both combined.
Shows 8 p.m. on Tuesdays through May 28, 2013. Tickets at the door, cash only, at 7:30 p.m. $15 general, $12 students/seniors 65+. Hotel Room Key pass (6 admissions, can be shared) $60. Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad Street.
General cabaret-style seating, licensed venue. Minors are permitted. The venue is not wheelchair accessible.