Sin Peaks – Review

Tucked away amidst the sparse surroundings of the “Tiki Lounge” in the basement of the Waldorf Hotel, a new improv production is offering some of the best comedy Vancouver has to offer –  for only $10.  Sin Peaks is an improvised soap opera running every Monday starting at 8pm.  “Episodes” are performed by an ensemble cast, who improvise scenes knowing only their own characters.  I must say I arrived feeling a bit nervous – thinking I might have to “play a part” as well, giving the actors suggestions and whatnot.  However, this show is not quite that kind of improv.  In Sin Peaks, the actors’ only cues are given by the show’s Director at the start of the scene.  Then, the scene starts, and the audience sits back and watches the results.  On a Monday night, I admit I found this a relief.

And make no mistake, the results are hilarious.  Sure, there is a “plot” – slick financier Sam Gold (Brad Tones) is opening up a resort in Tahiti in 1979, right next to a volcano, and he and his assistant (Stephen Keppler) hire a B-movie star (Alex Simon) to attract guests.  But this show is all about the characters – critic Francis McQuick (Martin Brochu), native Chief Bukakke (Lydia Campbell), a character whose name will mean more to some than to others, and Ralph Gold (Scott Malone), Sam’s long-lost son, to name just a few in this crowded line-up.  In all, they are quite a motley band of “types” not seen since the days of SCTV.

Putting these characters together randomly on stage like some sort of malevolent goddess of mischief, Director Aimee Beaudoin gives her actors just the right amount of room to go crazy while still satisfying the rules she has laid out.  Mood music pushes the characters (gently) in certain directions at times, and a spontaneous song even broke out here and there, much to the audience’s delight.  Since it was improv, even the few rare occasions when an actor hesitated with their next line were entertaining – in fact, at times, I was tempted to think that they made it all look easy – but it’s not, and that, of course, is a testament to the actors’ abilities.

Yes, these actors know their stuff, and behind the off-the-cuff aesthetic there are some serious skills at work here.  In particular, I thought Brad Tones (as Sam Gold) and Kalyn Miles (as retired New Yorker Judith Nameth) stood out as consistently funny no matter what ridiculous situation they found themselves in.  But the entire Sin Peaks cast deserves credit, without exception, for delivering non-stop laughs through pretty much the entire 2-hour show.  They displayed a pitch-perfect balance of adept acting and raw, anything-can-happen crazy enthusiasm that is the essence of great improv.  Sin Peaks is apparently inspired by the Edmonton show Die Nasty, which in its 20-year-plus run has featured many greats including Mike Myers.  If the first show was any indication, Sin Peaks will hopefully enjoy similar longevity.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sin Peaks, and I might go again, maybe multiple times.  Why?  Well, perhaps the coolest part of this show is that, since it is an on-going  “soap opera,“ each week’s show is completely different.  Sin Peaks will run at the Waldorf every Monday at 8pm until mid-June.  Then, Season 2 begins in September.  Tickets are $10 at the door, but a word of warning – seating in the tiny “Tiki Lounge” is limited, so you might want to call ahead.  For more information, visit the show’s web site at www.sinpeaks.ca.

Photo by Justine Warrington@Just Warr Photography