Theatre: Die-Nasty, Season 16

Die-Nasty has become an institution of sorts in Edmonton, and though I’ve always meant to give it a go (I came really close at last year’s Fringe), I just haven’t made it out. Part of the reason lies in a lukewarm experience I had watching one of the shows at the Improvaganza festival a few years ago – I came to the conclusion that unscripted comedy really wasn’t my thing. Well, Die-Nasty may have changed my mind.

Season 16 centered around a fictional 70s hockey team, the Edmonton Die-Hards, loosely based on the Oilers of the era. With outrageously-named characters, including Dr. Bueno Excellente (Mark Meer) to Captain Derrick Capilano (Jeff Haslam) and Coach Rollie Doobie (Dana Andersen), the cast really had fun creating their world. And upon hearing that Georges Laraque would be guest starring in the season finale, how could I pass it up?

It was a packed house, and a CTV cameraman even stayed to record the first half! I can tell you it was a bit surreal watching Laraque (fittingly #69, Wellen Dowed) alongside who I consider to be Edmonton’s theatre all stars – Meer, Haslam, Andersen, Sheri Somerville, Leona Brausen, Matt Alden, and of course, Ron Pederson (back in Edmonton for the summer!) up on stage. Two of my favorite things – hockey and theatre – came together for an evening.

As for the comedy itself – Andersen’s direction was spot on. The fact that this omniscient narrator was present to set up and subsequently end the scenes really allowed for some plot development, and unlike Improvaganza, wasn’t just a series of random exercises. He also ensured the audience got their money’s worth of Laraque – in the first act, he appeared in every other scene. As expected, most of the funny moments arose from ironic comments about his size, or more often than not, hyper-sexualized tension between him and whichever female cast member happened to be in his way (Laraque’s, “I couldn’t breathe!” after Brausen stuck his head between her breasts was priceless). Mack’s recap highlights some of the other memorable lines of the night, including Donovan Workun’s “I have a million dollar tool, that’s why I built the shed” response to a dig about his weight.

Though I may never understand why all of the women got to make out with Pederson, nor want to know what was actually in those bottles they were drinking out of, it was an entertaining evening all around. And really, any event that helps Mack get to the point where he can pick the theatre all stars out of a lineup is a worthwhile one in my books.

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