A few years ago, in the before times, I used to take the odd acting or theatre class. Oh, the dreams I dreamed..! But there was fun being had, and one of the funner ones I signed up for was an Improv class, run by Crush Improv’s terrific Tim Anderson. It was a swell time with much terrible-to-halfway decent improvising to be had by us newbies, and one of the fellow trainees in the comedic arts I met in that class was Dianne Skoll. Always raring to go and ready for any challenge or silliness cast her way. So I was very tickled indeed to see she had a show in this year’s Ottawa Fringe, and I’m sorry I waited this long in the festival to see it.
That show, by the by, is A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO BECOMING A WOMAN and, as the title not too subtly suggests, is about Dianne’s journey as a Trans woman (and, as it turns out, a comedian to boot). From roots in apartheid-era South Africa to a new home in Newfoundland and Canada, Dianne tells us her story and brings us along on a life of secrets and repressed feelings, eventually leading to revelation and a new way forward. Many bumps and stumbles along the way, natch, not the least of which is an ill-fated marriage. But thanks to the timely intervention of Cyndi Lauper, and a nagging little voice in the mirror, slowly but surely things start to change. And happily, so does Dianne.
‘Charming’ sounds a little backhanded as a compliment sometimes, but it feels appropriate for this wonderful, engaging and inspiring show. This was charming as all get out, as is its lead. Dianne is a capable actor when necessary, but really shines through thanks to two secret weapons in her arsenal. First is her honesty, which absolutely powers the show from beginning to end, and it wouldn’t even begin to work without it. The second is…she’s really fucking funny. There are scenes of Dianne’s standup routine in the show, and the laughs are worth the price of admission all by themselves…I happily borrowed her Phoenix joke to relate to my fiancee at home. But maybe…no, definitely more important is the honesty I mentioned before, which can do a lot more than make us laugh. It can change peoples lives. And I honestly think this is a show that could do just that for the right person watching. In a way, this is Fringe at its finest. Dianne’s show plays at the Odd Box for the rest of the Ottawa Fringe, tickets available at the website here. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin R (and Baby G)