Ian Abramson's 7 Minutes in Purgatory Mainline Theatre, Montreal QC, July 28

Ian Abramson's 7 Minutes in Purgatory Mainline Theatre, Montreal QC, July 28
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Ian Abramson's 7 Minutes in Purgatory is an excitingly novel experiment. The audience faces a stage occupied only by a screen, like some sort of underground low-budget movie house. Meanwhile, in another room — in Thursday's case more of a closet — comedians hock their material to nothing but an unmanned camera. With noise cancelling headphones over their ears to avoid any risk of hearing a reaction from the audience in the other room, they run through a seven-minute set of either rehearsed material or improvisation, all the while having no idea whether they're killing or bombing.
 
Last night's show featured a variety of comics including one of the funniest comics in Canada, Mark Forward, Kids in the Hall's Scott Thompson, Mike Carrozza, Rick Glassman of Undateable, Dom Irrera, Jo Firestone and Beth Stelling to name only a few.
 
The room resembled many things. With tools, tires, pieces of mannequins, hockey sticks and theatre props, comics trapped therein had a lot to improvise with. Some dubbed it a murder shack, others a panic room; some comics were reminiscent of captives in the Saw movies.
 
Jo Firestone was the first to really hit it out of the park with a great bit in which she shared a recipe for what she called baked potato pizza, a strictly one-person meal for the lonely and introverted. It was difficult for most comics to access the same sort of confidence that they would normally have on stage with a readable audience, but Firestone was unflappable — one of the best of the night.
 
Rick Glassman was dangerous. One usually reserves the dicey, racy material for when the audience can be read, assessed and bargained with. Not so for Glassman. The deranged comedian and poor man's puppeteer was completely fearless to the point of self-destruction, daring to a fault. While a few audience members flipped him the bird following a bit of the more blue material, his bewildering style of touch-and-go, "Did I or didn't I go" there sort of comedy had even the offended patrons in stitches.
 
Mark Forward is always a tough comic to outshine. Not bothering to go anywhere near the realm of prepared material, he chose to go the route of playing a wannabe YouTube star, his one desire being love and adoration for no reason. The would-be vlogger was something to watch, halfway between some sort of big bearded Michael Cera and a withdrawn Jonah Hill, he killed in typical Mark Forward fashion.