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?
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. email@example.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.