Humor can be cathartic, breaking boundaries and releasing pent-up emotion in a relentless surge. It can slide in swift and circuitous like a boxer, pulling insight from the listener before they know it happened. There's silly humor that erodes pretensions of individuals and satiric humor that does the same with groups
Women Fully Clothed at the Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday night showcased the humor of recognition, laughter that says "Oh yes, that happened to me." Shared tribulations with a light touch by laughing at human foibles and songs on the fitful trials of life, presented through sketches and songs. A kind of humor tickles, it peaks, ebbs and sometimes stalls, but goes down easy with a minimum of calories.
The show, which runs through Sunday, is without a doubt a flawless choice for date entertainment and well-timed for a tie-in with Valentine's Day. Presented by an ensemble of four women ranging from 40s to 60s, three of them mothers, all of them with careers and mates, they are a rather perfect reflection of the audience who came to see them. There's a goldmine of material there—parenthood, public schools, rat race, aging and relationships—and plenty that guys will laugh at.
Most of this Canadian quartet has done time in The Second City in Toronto, legendary at producing comedians with a facile ability at humorous characterizations. Within seconds of a sketch each could swiftly convey the core of personality with bits of body language, facial expressions and vocal tone, especially tough since most of the characters are relatively normal, unlike the exaggerated ones that populate Saturday Night Live. Robin Duke, the instigator and ringleader of Women Fully Clothed, showcased the widest range of characters that were completely unlike her own self.
Women Fully Clothed starts out with two very strong skits. In one, a trio of over-achieving ex-careerists transferred their boardroom behavior to a school-mom meeting. Overly sincere vows about the joys of being stay-at-home moms clashed with sniping comments revealing competiveness and pecking order obsessions. The comedians showcased a stunningly wide array of emotion, including Kathryn Greenwood devolving from confident young mother to tearful begging as the sole non-businesswoman who desired to move out of her toy-washing gulag assignment into the more prestigious role as assistant to the pizza mom. The always-comedic Jayne Eastwood, one of the wilder women of My Big Fat Greek Wedding with her unrepentant shock of frizzy hair, graced the skit as the mom who birthed triplets late in life and could not avoid falling asleep.
Surprisingly deep was a funeral skit. It first seemed to be about age-related social mores, with the constant Tweeting of youngest member Teresa Pavlinek repulsing the older Eastwood. The sketch evolved into Pavlinek and Greenwood trying to stay mournful but continuing to veer into chattiness, finally admitting they never liked the deceased and giving into a good laugh at her preposterous death. Guilt-tripping themselves into getting back "into the moment," they deftly slide into a moment of acute awareness of their own mortality and back out again before heading to the closest bar.
While the first half of Women Fully Clothed was exceptionally strong, the second half lagged badly toward the end. A meandering sketch on a grieving widow seeking help from combative couple that runs a New Age family psychic business, complete with unhappy teenage daughter, overflowed with un-mined potential for comedic pathos. A skit of an older mom attempting to regain the freedom of her youth by spouting poetry about the joys of her Virginia, while her adult daughter corrected her with "It's a vagina, mom," could have been a gut-buster, while settling for chortles.
But overall, it was a show that gave great value for the ticket price: fast-paced and packed with sketches and songs. Each performer gave 100 percent effort. Eastwood warbled about the insecurities of elderly love, relieved at her husband's assertion that "when I'm poking at the fire I'm not looking at the mantle." Pavlinek shone in a musical ditty about wishing for better foreplay skills in the men she dated. Her pantomime was priceless.
Twice the quartet triumphed in topics usually limited to men. The skit on hemorrhoids was blessedly short, and extremely funny, thanks to Greenwood's terrific voice inflection. A sketch about clothes shopping seemed quintessentially female, with Duke's superb physical humor as an aging sales lady whose unfiltered comments did nothing for sales. Telling the not-so-young Greenwood that her low-rider jeans did not produce booty cleavage but rather a plumber's crack, Greenwood launched into a wordless showcase of belly flab and love handles that had the audience rolling with laughter.
The stage was classic comedy improv setting with black background, four chairs and a stool. Coupled with black attire, the splash of costume color in last segments of show was welcome relief. Pianist/keyboardist Bob Derkach, former musical director at The Second City in Toronto, did a great job of musical accompaniment and keeping the show flowing with sound effects and interstitial noodling.
Viewpoint Bank is to be commended as sponsor of the Eisemann comedy series sponsor for the past several years, increasing the lineup from three shows to four. Comedy sponsors are hard to come by. While the Dallas Arts District has much going for it, it just can't beat the ease of Eisemann with close and cheap parking, easy access, and reasonably priced wine—all essential for getting women in the mood for fun.