Marty Topps / Dreamstalks Theatre Centre, Toronto ON, March 6
Published Mar 07, 2016Marty Topps' set was elaborately crafted but performed messily, while Dreamstalks' performance was polished but only garnered light chuckles with their benign comedy.
The primary premise of Dreamstalks' set was that the duo were children's musicians that sang and told stories about mature topics. Dressed in modest clothing with matching patterns, they explained puberty through a country song, recounted an anecdote about a kid discovering his parents having sex that involved a lot of call-and-response with the audience, and warned their audience about stranger danger.
Dreamstalks had all of the mannerisms of children's performers down pat, and their music and puppet voices were well-honed. However, their jokes were often too tame to make the most of their intended strength of their act: the fantastic incongruity of their simultaneous maturity and innocence. With the exception of their song about consent, which began with a sweet analogy about eating cake and ended with straightforward sexual references, Dreamstalks' material was not edgy enough to reach the full potential of their fairly limited premise.
Having said that, Dreamstalks were still decently fun to watch. Their song that confronted the fact that people's dreams usually don't come true unless they are rich was bitter yet charming. Moreover, their take on bullying that involved a paraplegic sock puppet was adorable and animated, though it did have a few too many strained puns.
Marty Topps' act was founded on good material, but the performance was rather sloppy due to myriad technical issues. He pushed through it as best as he could by holding hilariously candid Q&As whenever he needed to stall, but the effect of the technical mishaps was huge. It stunted the show's momentum and consequently forced Topps to rush the ending of his show; it messed with the mixing of Topps' music to the point where some of songs were almost unintelligible, and it generally made everything feel unprofessional.
Nonetheless, Marty Topps' performance was still fairly enjoyable. Based on the premise that he was the degenerate founder of a charity that supported a peewee baseball team called the Leaside Lemmings, his act gradually revealed his character's life story with both subtle absurdity and unabashed antics. Over the course of his wonderfully weird corporate-like presentation, he entertainingly addressed some incredibly detailed and strange allegations made by his ex-wife, he begged for the audience's money and delightfully convinced them to throw coins at him, and he even performed in a cheap lemming costume.