Do yourself a favour and get some Hot Thespian Action at this year’s Fringe – you won’t regret it… The result is an hour of top-notch comedy presented by a group of players who seem capable of almost anything… This is about as good as comedy gets, at the Fringe or anywhere else: writing that’s accessible without sacrificing any of its edge, performers whose variety of skills is just as impressive as the depth of their talents, and a pace that never lags. HTA bring laugh after laugh until the show ends, leaving you wanting more… (Full Review)Kelly Stoffora
If you’ve ever seen Hot Thespian Action perform before, you’ll know the comedy sketch troupe has quite the cache of sidesplitting skits to pull from… Their uproarious physical comedy, flawless timing and cleverly written subject matter are utterly bang-on, and the laughs come just as easily as does the craving to see their shows again and again… (Full Review)Julijana Capone
The local quintet of Shannon Guile, Jacqueline Loewen, Garth Merkeley, Ryan Miller and Jane Testar unfailingly produces wildly entertaining sketch comedy that gives the genre a good name. It’s not just the uniformly adroit performances — beautifully timed, with a physicality that can be graceful or goofy as required — but the bizarre, brilliant territory this troupe’s fevered collective brain explores…. Somebody give these folks a TV show. (Full Review)Jill Wilson
REVIEW FOR 2015’S BACK IN BLACK
This is local sketch-comedy troupe Hot Thespian Action’s first fringe without founding member Jacquie Loewen, and there’s no doubt that her compact physical energy and her musical talent are missed.
However, remaining members Jane Testar, Shannon Guile, Ryan Miller and Garth Merkeley have taken her amicable departure in stride. On an almost bare stage, these supremely talented comic writers/performers create an hour’s worth of hilarity that’s smart, savvy, goofy and giddy.
The foursome are adept at satirizing modern life — one sketch skewers the practice of casting about for attention with vague Facebook statuses; another puts a twist on First World privilege at a cocktail party — but HTA’s truly shining moments come via their most absurd concepts. The show’s highlights include two families ravaged by the Cola Wars of the ’80s and a food talk show called The Taste, hosted by houseflies.
As Unnamed Fly would say, this show’s got buzz.
— Jill Wilson, Winnipeg Free Press
Every freaking thing they do turns to comedy gold.Bartley Kives
Winnipeg sketch comedy troupe Hot Thespian Action is a longtime fringe fan favourite for good reason: Every freaking thing they do turns to comedy gold.
The five-member outfit has come up with 13 sketches based on a range of comedic devices, starting off with a terrible pun that nonetheless proves very funny — sorry, no spoilers here — before broadening out into serious stagecraft based on mime, modern dance and painstakingly practiced physical comedy.
These Winnipeggers make it look so easy you’ll be too busy guffawing to geek out over technique.
And the verbal humour is accessible: there’s some perceptive social commentary, a smidgeon of expected edginess — you will hate yourself for laughing at a prostitute-homicide joke — and lots of straight-up gags about familiar characters, including technophobic senior citizens, inappropriately horny gym rats and out-of-touch gay fashion designers.
That said: An anthropomorphic abandoned tampon almost steals the show.
— Bartley Kives Winnipeg Free Press
According to the old Saturday Night Live template, men tend to dominate in a sketch comedy troupe.
No such dynamic exists among the five members of Winnipeg’s own Hot Thespian Action. The three women in the troupe, Shannon Guile, Jacqueline Loewen and Jane Testar, not only outnumber their two male partners (Garth Merkeley and Ryan Miller), they’re more physical and bolder in their comedy contributions, especially in sketches that include a mime throwdown, a robotic girls’ night out, a glimpse into the tragic downward spiral of air freshener addiction, and a flat-out hilarious staging of The Miracle of Birth. But there are no weak links in the troupe and everyone gets a chance to shine, whether it’s Miller’s interpretation of a young/old dog, or Testar’s choice of a heartfelt, folkie interpretation to ask the musical question: Don’t You Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me?
If you’ve blundered into a lot of bad comedy at the Fringe, Hands Off feels — contrary to its title — as reviving as a high-end spa treatment administered by caring professionals who know how to rub you the right way.
★★★★★ — Randall King, Winnipeg Free Press
Do yourself a favour and get some Hot Thespian Action at this year’s Fringe – you won’t regret it. In fact, there couldn’t be a better time. For A Show of Hands, these five immensely talented sketch comics held a vote on their website to find the most popular sketches from four years worth of Fringe funny making. The result is an hour of top-notch comedy presented by a group of players who seem capable of almost anything. Dressed in black and aided by only a few mime boxes, Garth, Jacqueline, Jane, Ryan and Shannon prove that all you need to put on a first rate Fringe show is an audience and a whole bunch of creativity. This is about as good as comedy gets, at the Fringe or anywhere else: writing that’s accessible without sacrificing any of its edge, performers whose variety of skills is just as impressive as the depth of their talents, and a pace that never lags. HTA bring laugh after laugh until the show ends, leaving you wanting more. Apparently, HTA are working on a T.V. pilot – don’t miss your chance to be able to say “I saw them when…”
★★★★★ — Kelly Stifora, CBC
I was wracked with guilt. My mom joins me for a night of Fringing each year, and this year it included a show that I knew could sell out. I should have bought her an advance ticket a week ago. Duty bound, I did what I had to: I left my mom alone in front of the Gas Station on a cool Saturday night while I went inside for some Hot Thespian Action.
As I took my last-person-in front row seat, notebook in hand, I felt wrong. The vibes, as they say, were bad.
And then the show started. And I laughed. Until tears formed. Without taking any notes. Like I wasn’t alone, and my mom wasn’t alone outside waiting for me. I laughed hard enough that I felt after like I had released something.
I won’t recount skits. I wouldn’t rob your friends that do get in of that. I will say that these gifted comedians achieve something that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Whether they’re performing a wordless pantomime, a seated conversation piece, or a pop-culture pastiche, they draw from a razor-honed toolbox of movement, voice, intelligence and timing to cut the clearest diamond of funny from any concept. You may fall in love.
But heed my folly and plan ahead for future encounters with these Hot Thespians. My mom missed a hell of a good show.
— Kelly Stifora
Their uproarious physical comedy, flawless timing and cleverly written subject matter are utterly bang-on, and the laughs come just as easily as does the craving to see their shows again and again.Julijana Capone
Passive-aggressive women going at it battle-royale style, gay BFFs providing social life-saving advice, bizarre tropical birds looking for mates — the witty wisecrackers of Hot Thespian Action are all over the map in Hands Down.
The local sketch comics — Shannon Guile, Jacqueline Loewen, Garth Merkeley, Ryan Miller and Jane Testar — have concocted an odd and hugely entertaining mixture of skits for their latest Fringe effort. Among the highlights: A couple’s silent brawl for the restaurant tab, twisted game show The Price is So Wrong and a song that ponders what would have happened if Shakespeare’s tragic heroes had just talked to their women before pulling their daggers (duh!).
Each Hot Thespian brings something to the table — most memorably Miller, for his gawky bird impression, and Testar, a master of facial expressions — and every thoughtfully penned sketch keeps the laughs flowing so consistently throughout the hour that it’s a shame it has to end.
★★★★★ — Lindsey Ward, Winnipeg Sun
The performances across the board are virtually pitch-perfect, and the troupe’s sense of sketch comedy structure and pacing is extremely strong… It’s almost depressing how good they are so youngDean Jenkinson
If you’ve ever seen Hot Thespian Action perform before, you’ll know the comedy sketch troupe has quite the cache of sidesplitting skits to pull from. For A Show of Hands, the fivesome draws from the best sketches of the past few years as voted by fans. From singsong numbers about planned parenting and gay best friends to a fantastically choreographed duel over a dinner cheque and robotic F-bomb-dropping single girlfriends out on the town in the fall-down-hilarious Good Time Girls. Their uproarious physical comedy, flawless timing and cleverly written subject matter are utterly bang-on, and the laughs come just as easily as does the craving to see their shows again and again. With a TV pilot project in the works, I suspect the future for these comic whiz kids is about to get a whole lot brighter. No one tops this band of locals at the Fringe.
★★★★★ — Julijana Capone, Uptown Magazine
This is about as good as comedy getsKelly Stifora
The local quintet of Shannon Guile, Jacqueline Loewen, Garth Merkeley, Ryan Miller and Jane Testar unfailing produces wildly entertaining sketch comedy that gives the genre a good name.
It’s not just the uniformly adroit performances — beautifully timed, with a physicality that can be graceful or goofy as required — but the bizarre, brilliant territory this troupe’s fevered collective brain explores. A fight over a restaurant cheque turns into a jazz dance. A couple sings a sultry R&B duet about planned parenting. A failed Siren tries to hone her feminine wiles. A couple of snippy office workers engage in a Passive-Aggressive Battle Royale while commentators do play-by-play.
Recalling Testar’s daffy performance as a doomed dodo bird in a previous HTA show can still make this reviewer laugh out loud. This year, it’s Miller’s time to stretch his wings, as the rubber-faced redhead plays a bird of paradise desperate to attract a mate who’s just not that into him. His expression as he struts and preens delivers $8 worth of laughs alone.
Hands Down isn’t HTA’s best fringe show to date — a couple of ideas are funnier in theory than in execution — but it’s hands down the best sketch comedy in Winnipeg. Somebody give these folks a TV show.
— Jill Wilson, Winnipeg Free Press
Side-splitting, snappy and sassy, Hot Thespian Action is hands down (yeah, I said it) the best sketch comedy troupe in Winnipeg, a point proven in its latest Fringe Fest production. Let’s start with the straight-up silly stuff: In the scene Paradise Lost, Ryan Miller plays a peacock pursuing a partner with an absolutely priceless prance. In Torture the troupe takes on those who can’t tell between “there”, “their” and “they’re.” All is not just harmless hilarity, though. In Hands Down, the Hot Thespians take on political correctness, paranoid parents and passive aggressive behaviour. And they do it all very quickly. The scenes are short, never overstaying their welcome. Self-editing is a concept lost on many a sketch troupe (just watch SNL), but Hot Thespian Action has polished its parody to perfection.
A — Jared Story, Uptown Magazine
Somebody give these folks a TV show.Jill Wilson
Before I start calling Hot Thespian Action the best hour of sketch comedy I have ever seen, I’m going to run through the pros and cons. To make it easy, let’s compare it to something similar, something familiar. How about the long-running classic Saturday Night Live?
First, if you go to see Hot Thespian Action, you don’t have to endure Lorne Michael’s bad acting in the awkward opening monologue. Second, there were no overrated lip-syncing musical guests between bits (no matter how famous one is, the musical turd always manages to flush your interest down the toilet at some point or another). And THEN, every single politically incorrect slur, profanity, and inappropriate sexual innuendo you couldn’t possible utter on network television is utilized to absolutely perfect comedic effect. For the WIN.
The one con? After seeing the cast of Hot Thespian Action partially nude on their promotional flyers, posters, and press materials, you might be disappointed to learn that ne’er a bare thespian tit was flashed. It doesn’t make a difference at all, but I feel obligated to come up with at least one criticism.
I mean, the room was strangely giddy from the get-go. The theatre was packed and the crowd was attentively hanging on every word (and pelvic thrust). People laughed out loud when a new title appeared on an easel at the front of the stage. That’s all it took. Maybe it was the atmosphere, but not one skit fell flat. Your cheeks, your belly or both will be sore from laughing after what might be the show to see at this year’s Fringe Festival.
In other words, SNL couldn’t hold a candle to this five-person troupe from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Sorry, Lorne Michaels, but (even if you could act) it’s not even close. Get a ticket to this show before the festival is over.
★★★★★ — Lisa Johnson, Planet S Magazine