The After After Party is a banger of a night out

The Cultch is presenting The After After Party in the Vancity Culture Lab.

Cheyenne Mabberley (Jules) and Katey Hoffman (Fiona) open a Pandora’s box of comic free association in The After After Party. (Photo by Helena Boden.)

The day after seeing The After After Party, I’m still laughing as I describe it to friends. The laughter is uncontrollable. Like I’m being tickled. By unseen hands. That belong to somebody that I like but can’t identify. If you’re up for an audacious good time, The After After Party is the show for you.

In the story, it’s 2006. Jules and Fiona have one month to go before they graduate from high school. They’re losers, but they are determined to become popular before the school year ends, and they have decided to up their status by partying hard. But the night has been so wild that, when we first meet them, sitting on a park bench, they can’t remember the pre-party, the party, or the after party, which is making it challenging for them to find the after after party. They’re also a bit concerned that they might have murdered somebody, so they decide to time travel by snorting Ritalin.

Extremity is a big part of this comic package. So is transgression. Fiona remembers, for instance, that, at one point, when they were doing crack with homeless people, Jules made out with a toothless guy, which would explain the taste of blood in Jules’s mouth. (Are you starting to get a bit of a feel for this?)

One of the interesting things about transgressive comedy is that it lets you know where you sit on the transgression map. I gleaned that tidbit of wisdom this morning while talking to a friend who does a lot of edgy performance. And it’s true. I got vigilant about the disability humour, for instance, but, when I ran it past a disabled friend this a.m., she roared with laughter and said she wished she could hear more crip jokes. One thing about The After After Party: it’s equal-opportunity free fall and, although it’s dark, it’s never mean-spirited. “Okay, so there was that one time I made out with a labradoodle.” I’m just throwing that in because that is, essentially, what happens in the show: you never know what’s coming next.

Katey Hoffman, who plays Fiona, and Cheyenne Mabberley (Jules) also wrote the script and they handle its breakneck pacing with all of the assurance of the Canadian snowboarding squad. They also make an excellent—and classic—comic team. Fiona is the ditz, the Joey in clown terms, the one dedicated to illogic. And I’ve got to say: Hoffman is a kind of comic genius. That genius is partly about her focus, which is as sudden and intense as that of a dog seeing a squirrel. It’s also about her inventiveness—like the self-satisfied little-girl coyness that she pulls out of the bag every time Jules challenges her about her pee and poo habits.

This wouldn’t work as well as it does, of course, without the balancing factor of Mabberley’s Jules, who is the “straight man” of the team. Jules has her own excesses—her highest ambition is to become the class slut—but she is also the lodestar around which Fiona’s absurdity spins. There are a couple of very brief moments when directors Kayvon Khoshkam and Genevieve Fleming let Mabberley go too zany with Jules and it undermines the dynamic. For the most part, though, it ticked right along on opening night.

I have a couple of structural criticisms. We’re set up to expect a big reveal about what happened at the party, but that plot point doesn’t have enough impact and the narrative wanders around for a while after that, trying to find a new focus. The resolution is a little pat.

The physical business, especially in a fight scene, could be crisper.

But what the hell? I first saw The After After Party at the Fringe in 2016. Loved it then. Love it now.

This show should tour. And, if you want a banger of a night out, you should see it.

THE AFTER AFTER PARTY by Katey Hoffman and Cheyenne Mabberley. Directed by Kayvon Khoshkam. Additional direction by Genevieve Fleming. An After Party Theatre Society production at the Vancity Culture Lab on Wednesday, March 7. Continues until March 17.

Tickets.

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About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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