The Snides of March

A Double Exposure production. At the Waterfront Theatre until March 26

British Columbia has a bit of a reputation nationally for being a flaky province full of weirdos. I always thought that was an unfair characterization. But after seeing Double Exposure's The Snides of March, I finally see what it's all about. If their parodies of local personalities are any indication, we're certifiable freaks.

Bob Robertson and his snidekick Linda Cullen have been entertaining the country for years. First with their CBC Radio show and then with a television version of the same name on CTV, they skewered the nation's newsmakers (and news readers) through an array of uncanny impersonations. Off the air since 2000, the Vancouver-based duo have now put together a slick comedy revue complete with singing, dancing, video, and an expanded cast. Joining them are Peter New, Penelope Corrin, Trevor Devall, and Morgan Brayton, who give the show a dimension that Robertson and Cullen never had on their own.

I made the error of attending a Sunday matinee performance on the most beautiful day of the year, so the crowd was sparse. But for the most part, the on-stage antics were amusing. The afternoon started with a song-and-dance number featuring suitably "snide" remarks that set the tone for the skits that followed, although it was as bizarre watching Robertson "dance" as it would be seeing Bill Good or Tony Parsons (two voices the comic does) shaking it on the stage.

The show's production quality is topnotch: great sound and lighting, smooth transitions, and excellent use of video. My favourite video segment was a recurring Mike McCardell portrayed by New, whose mannered talks to the camera were as insipid as the real ones on Global TV.

There were some great lines scattered throughout: Brayton as an Olympic eating coach telling one of her athletes about her day in the sun ("I fasted for an entire half-hour before the meet"); Robertson as David Emerson insisting that only 15 percent of his constituents want him recalled ("Eighty-five percent of the people in my riding want me to go hunting with Dick Cheney"); or Devall's Christopher Gaze, of Bard on the Beach fame, instructing the BC Lions cheerleaders ("Try this, shrews of encouragement: 'A pox upon you, Riders of the Rough'?"). But nothing beats Robertson's Jean Chrétien, even if he's old news. The voice is perfect, and as ridiculous as they are, the malapropisms ring true: "This guy always say that I was playing Parmesan politics. And that really cheesed me off."

Not all the jokes are gems, though: some of them have been around for ages. Even if it wasn't true, lore has it that Gracie Allen said, "Goodnight, Gracie," long before a ditzy Pamela Martin, as played by Cullen, was bidding adieu with her own name. Another stock gag concerns a gunman ordering a pilot to fly him wherever his luggage is going. These oldies but goodies have no place in an original show. That's lazy, Air Farce-type humour.

But all in all, The Snides of March is a fine night (or day) out at the theatre. I could easily see this show becoming an annual event, maybe even touring the rest of the country. Of course, they'd have to take out some of the local flavour. But just as well. Our reputation has suffered enough as it is.