Lessons on Humanity at NextFest

Arriving at Roxy Theatre worried that perhaps I just didn’t “get” sketch theatre after seeing Seven Steps to Success the previous evening, I settled into my seat willing to accept anything The Sweater Zepplins’ Lessons on Humanity threw at me. The creation of Vanessa Lever, Nikolai Witschl, Ellie Heath, and Megan McLachlan ended up being a hilarious and unapologetic celebration of the lifestyles, personalities, and self-concepts that make us human. The four creators of Lessons on Humanity should be proud of this script, which is funny yet insightful and sarcastic without being bitter. Additionally, the theatrical form of sketch theatre was a great artistic choice – I walked out of the show thinking, “yeah, that is how we learn about humanity – in these seemingly small interactions, not in big grandiose, life-changing events.”

Similar to Seven Steps to Success, I was stunned by the variety of situations and characters that actors Vanessa, Nikolai and Ellie were able to transcend in the 75 minute show. Forget traditional theatre’s use of character development – there’s something fantastic in watching an actor transform from a modern-day Romeo-cum-caterpillar to someone who could belong on Real Housewives of Vancouver. Hats off to the energy and talent required of the actors to change character, time, and place faster than before you knew the previous sketch was over. My enjoyment of Lessons on Humanity was also heightened by the continual return to several of the scenes, creating more of a narrative as opposed to a string of juxtaposed examples of human interaction.

The scenes themselves were absolutely absurd, but those settings – instead of the mundane, daily interactions – really accomplished what the title of the show implies. By stretching what could have been a typical interaction far beyond the boundaries of normalcy, we are able to get deeper insight into what modern day humanity has really come to – whether that’s 15 year old girls buying sperm at a sperm bank or men sitting around discussing their relationships the same way girls are typically portrayed as doing. In purposefully exaggerating the character’s personalities or circumstances, we are able to have a closer look at what’s really going on in a scene – whether it’s a power struggle, a lustful encounter, or even just a yearning for someone to speak to about the things you find interesting. In thinking about the performance, I would liken it to a caricature that exaggerates the details you may not have previously noticed.

Whether you’re looking for a nice time out & about during NextFest, or would maybe like to see something that makes you think, I definitely recommend checking out Lessons on Humanity.

Lessons on Humanity has two remaining NextFest performances, both at Roxy Theatre:

  • Friday, June 14 at 7:00 pm
  • Saturday, June 15 at 6:00 pm

Tickets to individual performances are $10. See the entire schedule for NextFest performances at Roxy Theatre on YEGLive.ca or check out NextFest’s new website at nextfest.org.

– Jenna Marynowski

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