nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
March 8, 2007
In Wit's End, the one-woman laugh-in at FRIGID New York, Canadian Sandra Shamas makes comedy look very easy. Her casual style and conversational tone feel almost like a one-on-one at the kitchen table of a farmhouse—where, in fact, most of her anecdotes take place.
Her 125-acre farm proves to be more than a divorce settlement. It is a vehicle for self-growth and a minefield of humor. It begins with a chatty, chatty, chatty Shamas and a farmer who comes with the land. Despite Shamas's requests of no chemicals (health, ecology) and no corn (blocks the view), the man arrives ready to plant corn with killer chemicals. Like any man who has had his way too long, he tells her, "I am the farmer," to which she replies, "You are not the farmer of me any more!" She is empowered by the firing, only to discover that she will be taxed on the full 125 acres unless she farms a portion of it. Each incident leads to another character, and Shamas develops these characters—primarily male—in recognizable yet fresh and human ways. Each situation presents a challenge, and we understand why she rises to every one. We also see her grow from a city girl to, if not a farmer, then a property owner who knows what she wants. By the end, she recognizes the rhythms of country living and is capable of out-silencing any farmer.
Shamas, who turned 40 on the farm and is now on the cusp of 50, extracts plenty of humor from her age. She is particularly funny in her bit about forgetfulness. Whoever connected this with a loss of nouns and an accumulation of adjectives? It is a clever take on an old bit. Some of her material makes the audience of predominantly thirty-somethings yearn to reach 40. At this magical time, she tells us, you begin to stop caring: about saying the right thing when it's not what you want to say, about spending time with people you don't want to be with, about filling silences when the silence feels good. However often we have heard jokes about getting older, Shamas makes sure her material sounds new.
The show, around 50 minutes, is delivered with ease and conviction. Shamas's honesty lends a universal note, allowing everyone to identify with her basic human emotions, regardless of their age or where they live.