Panacea / Vest of Friends The Theatre Centre, Toronto ON, March 12
Published Mar 13, 2015The lights dimmed in the modest yet spacious black box theatre on Queen Street West. A man named Nug stepped forward, unapologetically read the opening announcement off of his phone, and welcomed latecomers. The lack of frills and formality was lovely in its minimalism, and set a blank slate to facilitate the off-the-wall energy that followed. The performance began with Vest of Friends acting out The Lion King, complete with foam animal hats and a vest crumpled into a bundle that represented baby Simba. The Toronto-based sketch troupe infiltrated the crowd, providing the energy of a group double their size and over the course of the show, they continued to let loose this spirit of unfiltered silliness, which was further enriched by great call-backs and transitional music that cleverly related to each sketch. Some of highlights included a short joke where two men tried to pull off a totem pole trench, even though they didn't have a trench coat, and a hilariously absurd bit in which a group of doctors realized that they would still have "doctor powers" if they took off their lab coats.
The peculiarly named Panacea (pictured) also brought comedy that featured innocent, unabashed enthusiasm, well-integrated call-backs, and breaking the fourth wall. Occasionally, a few of the performers broke character during the punch lines of their sketches, but they were all very talented comedians nonetheless. Their skewering of people who obsess over motivational quotes, their morbid sketch in which an old couple encouraged a mugger to shoot them because they didn't have much longer to live anyways, and their vision of an Icelandic Sleep App that alternated between sounding like Björk and the Swedish Chef were all delightful. However, it was in their scene featuring an oversharing barista that the best line of the show was delivered: "I am a fully fleshed out character!" the man with the Starbucks apron cried. The hipsters and theatre nerds in the crowd relished the simultaneously ironic and meta perfection.