Movies are awesome. Theatre is awesome too. But one thing I know from knowing a lot of theatre people is that, in the 21st century, most people who fall in love with the latter fell in love with the former first.
They’re wildly different media of course, and yet similar in so many ways.
Using Hamlet as his mouthpiece, Shakespeare talked about art holding up a mirror to life. He scarcely could have imagined what an extraordinary mirror would come to exist a few centuries later in the form of motion pictures. A mirror that would inspire us in ways both illuminating and distortive.
All this may seem a bit pretentious for a review of a sketch comedy show but it’s exactly what Corn Productions’ “Is This Reel Life?” is about.
The five writer-performers (Eric Akeson, Ryan Cleary, Erin Johnson, Vernon Mina, Jamie Smith and Alex Young) have all taken inspiration from movies and the way they influence our thinking and shape the world.
For the most part, the cast hits their comedic marks with their premises. Many sketches expertly expose the incongruity between the romantic visions the movies present us with and how the world really works.
One hilarious early sketch has Johnson as a starstruck fan to a classically handsome and roguish 1940’s type movie star. (Cleary) When they consummate their passion, Cleary reveals he only knows how to have sex Hays Code style, tumbling over his partner while expecting the camera to discretely cut away, much to Johnson’s frustration.
Another sketch has Akeson as a bored customer service rep fantasizing that the boring people he talks to on the phone are action heroes, inviting him on a great adventure.
This is a smart and funny show with a lot of laughs and a lot of heart. As with many sketch comedy shows, the anticlimactic endings tend to be the weakest parts.