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article imageReview: ‘She the People’ followup from Second City brings more laughter Special

By Jeff Cottrill     May 5, 2019 in Entertainment
Toronto - Everyone agrees that sequels, even good ones, rarely match up to the originals. The better ones know how to call back and reinvent elements that worked well the first time, or take their ideas in unexpected new directions, or both.
While Second City’s She the People: The Resistance Continues isn’t exactly a sequel, it’s a fun all-female comedy revue that offers the “more of the same” vibe that sequels often give off – probably because it has the same cast, director, writers and themes. That’s not a bad thing. The original She the People show from last summer was a great series of sketches that expressed the frustrations, fears and anxieties of being a woman in the twenty-first century. This new one, which opened last night, is more of a mixed bag, but still worth seeing.
Directed once again by Carly Heffernan, Resistance has its own successful callbacks. Karen Parker dons a giant Tyrannosaurus Rex costume again, to satirize how men judge what women wear, but with a new twist. Kirsten Rasmussen once again takes hosting duties for the game-show parody You Oughta Know, but with different questions, to expose how ignorant Canadians are about their own social and political issues.
In other ways, this show tosses in some timely new targets – like the anti-vaxxer movement. Parker and Ashley Comeau play dimwitted parents who refuse to vaccinate their baby in an early scene, as Paloma Nuñez’s doctor takes out her rage on Ann Pornel’s “surrogate” assistant. (“Diseases are like ’90s boy bands,” Nuñez says. “If you don’t actively prevent them, they will come back.”) The cast also takes on the relative lack of women and minorities in the entertainment world: in a sketch set at Comicon, Tricia Black, Parker and Comeau sport fake mustaches as white men who are in charge of gender and diversity issues in the film industry, but who can’t name a single female director.
There are also unexpected risks that pay off. The weirdest bit in the show (and, in retrospect, one of the funniest) is a ballet sequence in which the entire cast hold up large masks of white male political leaders – Donald Trump, Doug Ford, Andrew Scheer and, yes, even Justin Trudeau – in front of their faces as they dance to “Send in the Clowns”. Sometimes you don’t need a lot of nuance to score a point. Another daring scene, recycled from a past revue, features Comeau, Pornel and Rasmussen as a trio of Valley Girl-type cheerleaders who horrify their coach (Black) with anti-consent and anti-abortion chants. Disturbingly funny.
Even more provocative is a sketch with Nuñez as an army sergeant conducting an army drill with the other five cast members before a girl’s night out – going over plans to stay safe from creepy men, with the recurring chant, “So We Won’t Get Murdered!” Another later bit, true to the resistance tone of the revue, has Rasmussen actually calling up Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott’s real business number and leaving a voicemail about Ford’s healthcare cuts. (This would be even better if Elliott answered, or at least if a live person did, but that’s not likely in an evening show.)
Some other sketches aren’t as memorable, but even the more formulaic ones have good jokes or twists at times. A routine scene about an awkward blind date between Black and Rasmussen is dotted with sharp lines; Rasmussen livens up an otherwise one-joke song about appreciating women’s smarts over their looks, “I’ll Shake My Brain in Your Face,” with a deftly executed rap about DNA. Another sketch, with a schoolteacher (Nuñez) connecting with a lonely student (Rasmussen), runs a little too long, but has a lot of heart.
As you expect from Second City, Resistance is rife with musical numbers, along with sprinkles of improv and audience participation, giving the cast a chance to make the most of its diverse skills. As in the earlier revue, this is a well-balanced mix of ages, ethnicity and performance styles – with the controlled, experienced professionalism of Parker and Nuñez balancing out the more cartoonish acting of Rasmussen and Pornel. (The latter two are especially funny in a late scene as a mechanic and assistant who treat male and female customers differently.)
It’s not as consistently good as the first She the People, but it’s still a fun time, with a powerful message: The ladies are here, and they’re taking over, so get used to it. If we get laughs along away, more power to them.
She the People: The Resistance Continues runs at Toronto’s Second City Mainstage from Friday to Sunday until September 15.
More about Second City, Feminism, sketch comedy, Satire, Toronto
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