There is a curious split in the performing persona of Sandra Shamas as seen in A Trilogy of Performances. Her tone can be aggressively angry or mordantly mocking, as when she skewers Cosmopolitan magazine and Helen Gurley Brown, the mummified Tutenkhamen, or when she savages insensitive men or irrational women: "You want to lose twenty pounds, Bev? Cut off your fuckin' head, you're not using it." Still there is a part of her that seems to yearn for such conventional trappings as a wedding ring and property, although showers and other "herd rituals", granted, remain the subjects of her disapproval.
Shamas's Sudbury upbringing and dysfunctional family feature prominently in the trilogy, the titles of whose pieces are self-explanatory: "My Boyfriend's Back and There's Gonna Be Laundry" I and II, and "Wedding Bell Hell". There is a narrative that links the works, and such motifs and themes as underwear, the agonies of being single, romantic yearning, depression, and the biological clock reappear in variation. The text is satirical, in particular, the vignettes and anecdotes about her father (whose idea of quality time was to watch cars whiz by on the Trans-Canada), hockey moms ("short stocky women with mannish haircuts and club jackets"), and the unique Louise Tranche-Montagne of the cat's eye, rhinestone-rimmed glasses, the biggest platinum-blonde hairdo in the Nickel Belt, and her "Don't you press my nerve" warning. The reader can only imagine how the words on the page must come to biting life with Shamas's actual physical presence and her full repertoire of facial expressions and vocal modulations.
Much of M. T. Kelly's most recent novel, Out of the Whirlwind, is set in the Northwest Territories.
Bernard Kelly is a Toronto publisher and writer.
Keith Garebian is the author of eight books on theatre. His latest is The Making of `Cabaret'(Mosaic).