The Two Weird Ladies (Laura Salvas and Mandy Sellers) don’t lie in their show title. They do, in fact, bomb the Fringe. However, they do it because of explosive humour and energy, rather than bombing the less-fortunate way many shows do. The Ladies were sold-out popular by the time I got to see them, and I can see why. They write intelligent sketches with an off-kilter sensibility, and unlike many sketch shows, they manage to tie things together cohesively, even if, technically, nothing has much to do with anything else.
The running theme in the show is the writers being “meta” – in “filler” sketches involving discussions of how they write, one of the two is hell-bent on ending every sketch with an explosion. The duo forms the classic boss/anarchist or smart/wacky comedy pair. In this case, they have a severe difference of opinion as to the direction of their show. This creates some running tension in the show, as the Ladies haven’t just hung Chekhov’s gun on the wall; they’ve lit Chekhov’s bomb!
Highlights of the show include one-upping egg salesman, a few sketches ripping on terrible charities (particularly the ones that stop you on the street), a game of “secrets” gone wrong, and a recurring gag featuring the low-budget Ghost of Bad Roommates Past. Most sketches take a dark, unexpected twist, to their major advantage. The Ladies use the fact that they are both, well, ladies, to their advantage; they take tired tropes of humour about women and add a strange enough spin on them that they are suddenly fresh again. What could have been a cliché sketch about two women getting ready for blind dates becomes a fascinating statement about friendship, desperation and need as the women’s declarations of devotion to each other become more and more violent and disturbing. A sketch involving two-faced “friends” of a bride is just crude enough to add some spice, but instead of being a traditional sketch involving the women just changing faces depending on who they’re talking to and having a “real” hatred and a “false” love of the bride, the two genuinely appear to feel both emotions. This turns the sketch into a comment on who we consider to be friends, who we keep in our lives and why, and our disappointment when we haven’t achieved what we wanted to. Of course, when you watch the sketch, you think less about how we deal with friends in the age of Facebook, and more “this is really fucking hilarious.”
The two comediennes are energetic and the pacing is sharp, lending amusement to even the weaker sketches, including the opening depressing serenade to a grandmother and some jokes about spina bifida that are trying to be edgy. There is the occasional recurring sketch, and the performers themselves, with their struggle for dominance, are a consistent theme. However, the particular genius near the end is an extended montage in which each of the sketches’ characters is allowed to respond to the main theme/danger that has been introduced. It reinforces and develops earlier jokes, along with reminding us of characters and sketches that we liked; a warm familiarity develops, along with admiration that the actors can slip in and out of each of the characters so rapidly. The show then concludes with one of the two funniest “curtain calls” I’ve seen this year at Fringe (Peter and Chris being the other one).
This bombing run is over, but make sure you see them next time; these are definitely Two Weird Ladies to watch.