Who: HB Productions
What: Something Small, Something Sweet
Length: 50 minutes
Where: Theatre Aquarius Studio (190 King William Street)
When: July 21-31 as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival
Tickets: $12 + $1.75 fee at https://boxoffice.hftco.ca/event/866:588/
Something Small, Something Sweet is not so much a one-woman show as it is a one-person sketch-comedy troupe. And writer/performer Gillian Bartolucci has the energy of an entire troupe. When she isn’t delivering fast monologues filled with punchlines, Bartolucci is often singing, leaping, or dancing- even through transitions.
Conceiving of sketches that will work for one performer could not have been easy, but Bartolucci has some valuable support behind the scene. Stage Manager Matt Keevins fires out complex sound cues to precise timing, most notable in a podcast-sketch which were timed to specific mimed button pushes by Bartolucci onstage. The sketch is funny, the timing is bang-on, and the fact that every sound cue went off perfectly was a masterclass in precision.
The better monologues feature multiple jokes in a sentence, with Bartolucci’s comedy style being extremely accessible. Shakespeare in-jokes, an absurdist reference to Mark Twain and Albert Einstein and mixed with jokes about farts or bums. In doing so, Bartolucci finds a way to elicit a laugh from every audience member, regardless of their sense of humour.
Transitions are designed to maintain Bartolucci’s energy. When not dancing through them, she’s just as likely to do a quick costume change as a cartwheel. While a few transitions were less smooth as a result of more technical setups and caused the energy of the show to drop momentarily, Bartolucci picks it back up with the electric charge of another sketch.
It’s noticeable that some of the lines of the production are being read or cued from the back of an easel board. While it doesn’t slow down the pace of the sketch, it does make the performance feel less genuine. However, Bartolucci continues to deliver on laughs, so it’s easily forgiven.
Bartolucci counters these less genuine moments with gems of true profundity. In one sketch, she talks about walking through a cemetery and the act of remembrance. It’s a true takeaway from the show, and one that this writer will be working to emulate in the future.
The penultimate sketch is my favourite- about a bag of chips. It is as thought-provoking as it is hilarious. The absurdity, relatability, ridiculousness, meticulously-written punchlines, and profundities are often all contained within one line. It’s magic, and a testament to Bartolucci’s talent to insert both sentiment and comedy into a moment.