Review by Max D’Ambrosio – Showbill.ca Writer
Cathy Jones’ one-woman show Stranger to Hard Work is in some ways a typical piece of autobiographical theatre – part psychological self-diagnosis, part lifestyle manifesto. First and foremost, though, it’s an energetic, good-natured comedy that skillfully sugars the bitter pill of issues like aging and mental health.
There is some suggestion of a character arc, in that Jones journeys from restless youth all the way into reflective old age. However, the show mostly eschews aiming at a specific theme or goal, apart from making the audience laugh and making full use of Jones’ curmudgeonly yet congenial personality.
There are more serious portions, in which Jones reads from a novel in progress. These feel a little self-indulgent, and deal some damage to the pacing. The excerpts are decently written, yet they’re a very different kind of art, dropped into the midst material that is generally stronger. As a result, their presence does not feel justified.
Apart from that, the atmosphere is very light, despite the anxiety-rich nature of most of the topics being discussed. The set and props give the impression of a view into Jones’ daily life. The jokes are well written and satisfying on many levels, successfully tapping into common hopes and fears. Morbid wit and pure rampant goofiness complement each other very nicely throughout.
The Bottom Line
Stranger to Hard Work is rough around the edges, but the humour is on target, and on par with Cathy Jones’ widely beloved performances on This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Her new show is well worth an hour or so of your time.
Stranger to Hard Work
Firehall Arts Centre
to October 8Purchase tickets