Volume 93, Issue 27

Tuesday, October 19, 1999


Shamus in league of her own

Reiner tells a candid story worth listening to

Exhibit shows many Faces of art

McKnight ignites R&B

Shamus in league of her own

Gazette file photo
NOW THERE'S THE COLGATE SMILE WE ALL KNOW AND LOVE. Sandra Shamus brings her original, personal style of comedy to the Grand Theatre with Wit's End, opening tonight.

By Luke Rundle
Gazette Staff

It's difficult to classify a typical Sandra Shamas show as mere comedy, for the way she draws audiences into her personal universe is more dramatic than anything else.

Picture a curly-haired brunette moving across a barren stage, making crowds laugh and cry with her honest stories.

This is not a run-of-the-mill Yuk Yuk's stand up performance. Thankfully, for London audiences, Shamas' latest effort, Wit's End, is a chance to experience a performance which evades any kind of comedic pigeonhole.

Shamas recognizes the unique nature of her style in the face of traditional comedy. "I have honestly never labelled it. I have always called it 'the thing that I do,' because frankly I'm smart enough to know that it embraces a lot of different stuff and I borrow from many different things. So at no point can it ever be one thing," she explains. "There's a result, a laugh, which makes it comedy. But when your great aunt is sitting around the table telling the story of her first time and the whole house is splitting a gut laughing, she's not called a comedian. She's your funny aunt. So I put myself into the category of anybody who can tell a story and draw a laugh – which is pretty much anybody – except I do it on a bigger scale."

Her unique one woman trilogy sets monumental precedents in the performance world with honest, personal tales of the single girl finally finding her Prince Charming. Her newest show, currently running at the Grand Theatre, is a continuation of her personal life story, dealing with her divorce and its effects.

When asked about her own interpretation of Wit's End, Shamas says, "The easy answer is destruction and reconstruction. It's about trying to sort one's self out after major life changes and it chronicles my sabbatical, my move to the country that is precipitated by my divorce. So, you know, a lot happened that day."

However, cynics may ask how Shamas can relate this painful time in her life to audiences without being bitter. She maintains there is no rancour in her show.

"When the audience leaves, I don't want them to leave bitter, so that means they wouldn't have witnessed a bitter performance and that means I have to present the material without bitterness," she attests. "The story isn't about anger, the story is about what happened. I wrote three shows about this man and the audience has an opinion, if not a relationship, with that entity. It wasn't in my best interest to drag him through any kind of muck."

Like her other performances, Wit's End is a form of personal therapy. The most prominent message in Wit's End may be for those experiencing times of hardship in their own love lives. "You get to breathe a different air when you get out of it. It's like living in a basement, really. You can live in a basement, I'm not saying you can't, but when you've got a really big, beautiful house on top of you and you're not going upstairs, it's a shame."

Although Wit's End is coming to London fresh off sellout performances at Toronto's National Arts Centre, Shamas emphatically states she has no idea whether the show will be the first in another trilogy.

"Honestly, when the very first show evolved, the second show only evolved because there seemed to be too much information in the first. Then the events of the first and second led to the third. I didn't expect to write the second, nor did I expect to write the third, and I sure didn't expect to write the fourth. So if number five comes along, you can color me surprised."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999