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THE NETHER by Jen­nifer Ha­ley (Coal ñ

Mine The­atre/Stu­dio 180). At the Coal Mine (1454 Dan­forth). Runs to Novem­ber 4. $42.50. coalminetheatre.com. See Con­tin­u­ing, this page. Rat­ing: NNNN

The ti­tle The Nether brings to mind some hellish un­der­world, or the phrase “the nether re­gions,” a eu­phemism for one’s gen­i­tals. It’s also a lo­ca­tion in a wildly pop­u­lar world-build­ing video game.

All three of these def­i­ni­tions play into Amer­i­can play­wright Jen­nifer Ha­ley’s pow­er­ful and deeply dis­turb­ing look at ethics and free­dom in a near-fu­tur­is­tic so­ci­ety that seems fright­en­ingly close to be­com­ing real.

Ha­ley has fash­ioned the play as a mys­tery. A de­tec­tive named Mor­ris (Kather­ine Cullen) in­ter­ro­gates the pa­tri­cian- look­ing Sims (David Storch) – who goes by the nick­name Papa, but whose real name is ob­vi­ously an al­lu­sion to the life sim­u­la­tion game – about a world he’s cre­ated in which men who fan­ta­size about do­ing things to young girls can, at least on­line, act on their im­pulses.

Papa’s vir­tual world re­sem­bles some­thing from the Vic­to­rian era, in which men are el­e­gantly suited and the girls – es­pe­cially Papa’s favourite, named Iris (Han­nah Levin­son) – wear frilly frocks with their hair in ringlets.

Among the pa­trons of this on­line uni­verse are Doyle (Robert Per­si­chini), who’s ad­dicted to the site and, in a sto­ry­line straight out of Black Mirror, is con­sid­er­ing liv­ing in it for­ever, and new­comer Wood­nut (Mark McGrinder), who seems very cu­ri­ous about Iris.

The po­lice sub­plot is the weak­est part of the show, and the com­mand­ing Cullen ini­tially doesn’t get to show much range in the role, which is es­sen­tially fill­ing in back­story about both the present-day and vir­tual worlds and bark­ing out com­mands.

The strength of this pro­duc­tion lies in the moral ques­tions at its cen­tre, and in Peter Pasyk’s mas­ter­ful di­rec­tion.

Un­der Pasyk, the de­sign team make both worlds vivid. The dystopian real-life set­ting is ren­dered down­stage with inky blacks and in­ti­mate spot­lights. The way elec­tronic de­vices are booted up and down is given a mem­o­rable jolt by Richard Feren’s sound de­sign.

The fan­tasy realm, how­ever, is a jewel box of a world straight out of Lewis Car­roll (quoted in the play’s pro­gram), with Nick Bot­tom­ley’s pro­jec­tion de­signs, Pa­trick Laven­der’s sets and light­ing, Michelle Bohn’s cos­tumes and Feren’s mu­sic mak­ing the place hy­per real.

It’s to the ac­tors’ credit that all the char­ac­ters are sym­pa­thetic, even while they’re about to do some­thing hor­ri­ble (noth­ing ex­plicit is shown on­stage, but much is im­plied). Spe­cial men­tion goes to Storch, whose en­tre­pre­neur is trag­i­cally con­flicted, and Levin­son, who in a trio of stage roles this year (Fun Home, Polly Peel) has shown a range and in­tel­li­gence that ac­tors three times her age never achieve.

Keep in mind that the show comes with a con­tent warn­ing. As the woman next to me ex­claimed be­fore one re­veal: “Oh. My. God. No.” What stronger proof of a work’s haunt­ing, vis­ceral power?

GLENN SUMI

How to find a list­ing Com­edy list­ings ap­pear chrono­log­i­cally, and al­pha­bet­i­cally by ti­tle or venue.

5 in­di­cates queer-friendly events h = Hal­loween-themed event

ñ= Crit­ics’ pick (highly rec­om­mended) How to place a list­ing All list­ings are free. Use the event sub­mis­sion form at nowtoronto.com. Dead­line is the Thurs­day be­fore pub­li­ca­tion at 5 pm.

Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 18

Another dAy, Another lAuGh Show-upand-go-up open mic with guest host Hisham Ke­lati. 9 pm. Free. Another Bar, 926 Bloor W. hall­worth­marc@hot­mail.com.

the best is yet to come un­done is the ñ

best Sec­ond City re­vue I’ve seen in years. The troupe takes on every­thing from #MeToo and sys­temic racism to mi­nor ir­ri­ta­tions, but each sketch aims high – and gets laughs. Even premises that start out fa­mil­iar go to un­ex­pected places. Un­der di­rec­tor Carly Hef­fer­nan, who mixes styles and rhythms ex­pertly, the cast is su­perb, with es­pe­cially strong work by Stacey McGun­nigle, Chris Wil­son and Bran­don Hack­ett. Lim­ited run, Tue-Sun see web­site for times. $27 & up, stu from $16. Sec­ond City, 51 Mercer. 416-343-0011, sec­ond­c­ity.com. nnnnn (Glenn Sumi) the de­bAters live on tour Comics go ñ

toe to toe in a bat­tle of laughs and logic and the au­di­ence picks the win­ner, with Kate Davis, Dave Hem­stad and host Steve Patterson. 8 pm. $35-$55. Liv­ing Arts Cen­tre, 4141 Liv­ing Arts (Mis­sis­sauga). livin­garts­cen­tre.ca. Golden mic com­edy Stand-up with Mar­ito Lopez, Pa­trick Ha­keem & Jar­rett Camp­bell, hosted by Gar­rett Jamieson. 8 pm. $20. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. com­e­dy­bar.ca.

hArold­fest: Ash­ley with A y Mu­si­cal ñ

Harold night w/ Darth Vader Gins­burg, Hurt Von­negut, CGW Im­prov and Ash­ley Bot­ting & Scott White. 8 pm. $7. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. com­e­dy­bar.ca. hArold­fest: the eX­per­i­ment The Lock­out Play­ers, Or­son Whales, Sex T-Rex and STRIKE do ex­per­i­men­tal im­prov. 9:30 pm. $10. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. com­e­dy­bar.ca. Jen GrAnt Head­lines w/ Ja­son Ha­trick & host Noor Kid­wai. Oct 18-21, Thu 8:30 pm, Fri 9 pm, Sat 8 & 10:45 pm, Sun 8 pm. $12-$20. Ab­so­lute Com­edy, 2335 Yonge. ab­so­lute­com­edy.ca.

lAuGh sAb­bAth Rad­i­cal stand-up and ñ

more from the Laugh Sab­bath com­edy col­lec­tive & weekly guests. 9:30 pm. $5. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. laugh­sab­bath.com. pAntsuit im­prov presents: rorschAch The troupe at­tempts to an­swer the deep­est ques­tions of the hu­man psy­che. 9:30 pm. $10. Bad Dog Com­edy The­atre, 875 Bloor W. bad­dogth­e­atre.com. popAGAndA presents heAvy me­tAl Mu­sic and im­prov show where duos take in­spi­ra­tion from a mu­si­cal genre to cre­ate scenes on the spot. 9:15 pm. $5. John Candy Box The­atre, Blue Jays Way, 3rd floor. sec­ond­c­ity.com.

she the peo­ple This re­vue of sketches by ñ

and about women is full of dead-on satire that in­cludes ref­er­ences to #MeToo, vic­tim blam­ing and the inanity of fe­male-tar­geted TV com­mer­cials, as well as many Toronto-spe­cific barbs. Un­der Carly Hef­fer­nan’s firm di­rec­tion, the six-per­son cast is full of ex­pres­sive clowns (Kirsten Ras­mussen, Tri­cia Black, Paloma Nuñez) and dead­pan “straight” char­ac­ters (of­ten by Karen Parker and Ash­ley Comeau), with Ann Por­nel repris­ing some of her most in­fa­mous SC bits, in­clud­ing one in which she bravely un­rav­els a char­ac­ter’s many, um, lay­ers. Not to be missed. Runs to Nov 25, see web­site for times. $25. Sec­ond City, 51 Mercer. sec­ond­c­ity.com. nnnn (Glenn Sumi) yuk yuk’s fes­ti­vAl show­cAse week Comics show­case their best sets for fes­ti­val book­ers. To Oct 20 , Thu 8 pm, Fri-Sat 8 & 10:30 pm. $11.50-$19.50. Yuk Yuk’s, 224 Rich­mond W. 416-967-6431, yukyuks.com.

Fri­day, Oc­to­ber 19

After hours stAnd-up com­edy Em­pire Com­edy Live’s late-night en­sem­ble show. Fri & Sat 11:30 pm. $7. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. com­e­dy­bar.ca. the Anti-to­ken com­edy show Stand-up w/ Ta­mara Shevon, Leonard Chan, Alan Shane Lewis, Cathryn Naiker, Daph­ney Jo, Drew Pick­lyk and host Harpreet Sehmbi. 9:30 pm. $10. The­atre Cen­tre, 1115 Queen W. face­book. com/events/343806222852195.

$15 beer beer com­edy show Weekly ñ

show. 9:30 pm. $15 (in­cludes 2 drink tick­ets; GA $5). The So­cial Cap­i­tal The­atre, 154 Dan­forth. so­cap.ca. hArold­fest: biG GrAnde Sketch and im­prov by the troupe from Up­right Ci­ti­zens Brigade the­atre in L.A. 10:30 pm. $15. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. com­e­dy­bar.ca. lovers And other strAnGers: im­pro­vised Co­me­di­ans im­pro­vise a set based on the CHFI 90s radio show, w/ Callum Wrat­ten, Colin Sharpe, Emily Richard­son, Daph­ney Joseph and oth­ers. 11 pm. $10. Bad Dog Com­edy The­atre, 875 Bloor W. bad­dogth­e­atre.com. merry JAnes of com­edy Head­liner Ash­ley Mof­fatt, Ju­liana Ro­driguez, Rachel Lau­zon and host Lianne Mauladin. 10 pm. $10. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. com­e­dy­bar.ca. miXed in the siX presents: A niGht of miXed rAce comics Aisha Brown, Monty Scott and Gavin Stephens per­form, ticket in­cludes food and DJ party to fol­low. 8 pm. $30. Glad­stone Ho­tel, 1214 Queen W. ma­maf­los.com. the royAl hAnG­over cure com­edy show Sea­son fi­nale w/Deanne Smith, Nigel Grin­stead, Chanty Maros­tica, Rob Pue, Todd Gra­ham, Aisha Brown and Ali Has­san. Hosted by Shawn Ho­gan. 8 pm. $20. Royal Cin­ema, 608 Col­lege. 416-466-4400, uni­verse.com. stu­pe­fied Live tap­ing of Paul Hutch­e­son’s solo show. 8 pm. $20. Small World Mu­sic Cen­tre, 180 Shaw, stu­dio 101. 416-725-6962, eventbrite.com/e/49893926076.

the suf­fer­ettes & 2-mAn no-show ñ

The Assem­bly Presents im­prov w/ Jib­ber Jab­bar, Bay­side Tigers and the head­lin­ers. 8 pm. $7. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. com­e­dy­bar.ca.

Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 20

the All-stAr Ar­mAndo Harold­fest presents ñ im­prov w Ar­mando Diaz, Aurora Browne, Paloma Nunez, Becky John­son, Drew Tarver, Ken Hall, Rob Nor­man & oth­ers. 9 pm. $15. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. com­e­dy­bar.ca. Andy zAltzmAn: riGht ques­tions. wronG An­swers Host of long-run­ning hit pod­cast The Bu­gle re­turns. 7 pm. $25. Royal Cin­ema, 608 Col­lege. eventbrite.ca/e/49902535828. com­edy brAwl 2018 fi­nAls Em­pire Com­edy Live presents the 9 fi­nal­ists and the crown­ing of the cham­pion. 7 pm. $22.50. 918 Bathurst Cen­tre for Cul­ture & the Arts, north of Barton. eventbrite.ca/e/49918047223. derek seGuin 43.0 com­edy tour Hub­cap Pro­mo­tions presents the comic delv­ing deep into the chal­lenges of be­ing a sin­gle dad in his for­ties. Shows at 7 & 10 pm. $20. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. hub­cap­pro­mo­tions.ca. hArold­fest: moon­struck Im­prov w/ Pep­per­oni Pizza Cats, Tall­boyz II Men, Grim Diesel and Moon­struck. 7 pm. $7. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. com­e­dy­bar.ca. hookup Bad Dog The­atre presents an im­pro­vised ro­man­tic com­edy based on the lives of two ran­dom au­di­ence mem­bers. 9:30 pm. $10-$15. Bad Dog Com­edy The­atre, 875 Bloor W. bad­dogth­e­atre.com/hookup. quiplAsh com­edy GAme show Head-to-head com­edy bat­tle, au­di­ence chooses the win­ner, with Alan Shane Lewis. 9 pm. Pwyc. 120 Diner, 120 Church. 416-729-7725, 120diner.com. 5shAde: women’s his­tory month edi­tion Cel­e­brat­ing women/trans/non-bi­nary voices w/ Chanty Maros­tica, Ash­ley Cooper, Hoodo Hersi, Carol Zoc­coli, Coko Ga­lore, hosted by Anasi­mone Ge­orge. Dis­cus­sion fol­lows. 8 pm. $25. Rivoli, 334 Queen W. shadetoronto.com. h tin­der tAles: the Ghosted edi­tion Comics share true tales of ig­nored text mes­sages, dodged phone calls and dates who van­ished into thin air. Hosted by Ta­mara Shevon. 7:30 pm. $20, adv $15. Suite 114, 116 Dun­das W. tin­der­tales.ca.

Sun­day, Oc­to­ber 21

5church street com­edy LGBTQ+ com­edy show­case w/ Aisha Brown, Clare Belford, An­drew John­ston, Dena Jack­son, head­liner Heidi Bran­der and oth­ers. 8 pm. Pwyc. Pe­ga­sus on Church, 489B Church. 431-997-6523. dirt­bAG cousin: com­edy duo show Twop­er­son sketch and im­prov troupes se­lected by Will French & Austen Alexan­der. 7 pm. $10. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. com­e­dy­bar.ca. hAmil­ton in­vAdes toronto Happy Hour Com­edy’s Hamil­ton edi­tion with host Ryan Sim & comics from Steel­town. 8 pm (sign-in 7:30 pm). Free. Ein-Stein, 229 Col­lege. 416893-5243, the­com­e­dy­green­room.com. love is ev­ery­where Stand-up, im­prov and the science of hap­pi­ness w/ hosts Tracy Hamil­ton &Cassie Bar­radas. 8 pm. $10. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. com­e­dy­bar.ca. the sketch­er­sons: sun­dAy niGht live New sketches & weekly guest hosts. 9 pm. $10. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. com­e­dy­bar.ca. slum­ber pArty stAnd-up com­edy After Hours presents smart, sweet, sassy & saucy co­me­di­ans ev­ery Sun­day. 11:30 pm. $5. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. com­e­dy­bar.ca.

Mon­day, Oc­to­ber 22

Alt­dot com­edy lounGe MC James Cun­ning­ham with Dave Mer­heje, Tom Cal­nan, Nour Ha­didi, Amish Pa­tel, Ni­tish Sakhuja, Nick Beaton, Bob Kerr, Laura Liebow and Kevin Finn. 9 pm. $10, adv $8. Rivoli, 334 Queen W. 416977-9596, alt­dot­com­e­dy­lounge.com. cheAp lAuGhs mon­dAy New acts, pros and ev­ery­one in be­tween hit the stage for 5 min­utes each. 9 pm. No cover. PJ O’Briens Ir­ish Pub, 39 Col­borne. 416-815-7562.

Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 23

fes­ti­vAl show­cAse niGht Ten comics show­case for Cana­dian com­edy festivals. 8:30 pm. $12. Ab­so­lute Com­edy, 2335 Yonge. 416-4867700, ab­so­lute­com­edy.ca. new tAl­ent show­cAse Hum­ber Col­lege School of Com­edy stu­dent show­case at 7:30 pm, weekly am­a­teur show­case at 9:30 pm. $5. Yuk Yuk’s, 224 Rich­mond W. 416-967-6431. h snAck time com­edy ep 23: snAck­oween Co­me­di­ans pick snacks for you to eat dur­ing their set, w/ Rahil Shaikh, Cathryn Naiker, Jen­nie Steer Wel­bourn, Ben Stager, Andie Hong, Derek Adams & oth­ers. 8 pm. $10. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. com­e­dy­bar.ca. h tin­der tAles: Ghosted edi­tion pt. 2 Comics share true tales of ig­nored text mes­sages, dodged phone calls and dates who van­ished into thin air. Hosted by Kate Barron. 8 pm. $12-$15. Glad­stone Ho­tel, 1214 Queen W. tin­der­tales.ca.

Wed­nes­day, Oc­to­ber 24

by­ron ber­trAm Head­lin­ing w/ open­ing acts & MC. Oct 24-28, Wed-Thu & Sun 8 pm, Fri 9 pm, Sat 8 & 10:45 pm. $11.50-$19.50. Yuk Yuk’s, 224 Rich­mond W. yukyuks.com. cork­town com­edy Brian Cough­lin hosts a weekly open-mic for new­bies & pros. 9 pm. No cover. Betty’s, 240 King E. 416-988-2675. the GAte­wAy show Stand-up comics tell jokes, get way too high, then at­tempt to tell more jokes. 8 pm. $20-$25. Adelaide Hall, 250 Adelaide W. tick­et­fly.com.

in­ter­sec­tion True sto­ries be­come im­pro­vised ñ scenes per­formed by a di­verse cast w/ sto­ry­teller Chanty Maros­tica, Kat Letwin, Mark An­drada, Nkasi Og­bon­nah and oth­ers. 8 pm. Pwyc to Stop­Gap Fdn. The So­cial Cap­i­tal The­atre, 154 Dan­forth. so­cap.ca. open­inG Act dAn rosen Dan opens for Flux In A Box, Gaby Hey, Jacob Bal­shin, John Mostyn, and head­liner Martha Chaves. 9:30 pm. Com­edy Bar, 945 Bloor W. com­e­dy­bar.ca. pro-Am niGht Black Zeus, Cathy MacPher­son, Craig Churchill, Karine Kazan, Mu­n­ish Joshi, Ron­ald Hae, Stephanie Neale, head­liner Mike Dam­bra and host La­mont Fer­gu­son. 8:30 pm. $8. Ab­so­lute Com­edy, 2335 Yonge. 416-486-7700, ab­so­lute­com­edy.ca. the rene­GAde show Dark & twisted ma­te­rial w/ host Kyle Lucey. Shows at 8 & 10 pm. $10 adv. The Cor­ner Com­edy Club East, 946 Queen E. 416-989-0899, thecorner­com­edy.com.

Han­nah Levin­son and Mark McGrinder ex­plore The Nether’s re­gions.

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