Entertainment Local

Close encounters of the comic kind

By Brian Paterson

Andrew Bailey, Jayson McDonald, and Tara Travis are Phantom Signal. (Contributed Photo)

Andrew Bailey, Jayson McDonald, and Tara Travis are Phantom Signal. (Contributed Photo)

There is nothing better than being in on a secret. This weekend, audiences can feel like part of an inside club with cozy, comedic performances in nooks across the city.

Phantom Signal

On Saturday night at Little Mountain Gallery – a 60-seat performance space just off Main St. - this livewire event applies a part-spooky, part-silly spin on old-time radio drama. Picture a public performance of Orson Welles’ ‘War of the Worlds’, but with jokes.

A trio of local theatre luminaries – Andrew Bailey, Jayson McDonald, and Tara Travis – perform fresh and funny tales of terror every month, giving voice to entire casts of characters and conjuring a world of sounds through live Foley effects.


With live musical accompaniment from Erin Hope-Goldsmith, the quirky event has gathered a cult following since launching its first season in the fall of 2015. Previous outings have shared harrowing stories of monsters under beds, homicidal computers, lurking undead, and all manner of things that go bump in the night.

Rumour has it this weekend’s show will feature two of Hollywood’s favourite extraterrestrials in a mash-up that blends “family-friendly fun and family-hostile eviscerating horror.”

May 6 at Little Mountain Gallery - 195 E 26 Ave. Doors at 7 p.m.; Show at 8 p.m.; Tickets $10 at door. Info at phantomsignalradio.com

Instant Theatre at Havana

If thrills and chills don’t fit the bill, head over to Commercial Drive, where late-night laughs spill into the small theatre at the back of Havana Restaurant.

For more than 20 years, the folks at Instant Theatre Company have been bringing unscripted entertainment to Vancouver stages. More recently, the ensemble has set up shop at Havana on Friday and Saturday nights, with a rotating selection of nearly 40 cast members sharing an eclectic and ever-changing line-up of themed shows.

This Friday, the company takes everyone’s favourite high school game, Truth or Dare, and gives it an improv twist. Audience questions will elicit public confessions from the improvisers – and all manner of dares and challenges might arise to complicate scenes (the website mentions eating lemons and dodging mousetraps).

A spontaneous song-and-dance extravaganza happens on Saturday in one of the company’s most beloved productions: Off-Key: The Improvised Musical. Starting from audience suggestions, the quick-thinking, fearless cast promise to make up a wholly original music on the spot – as they sing, dance, and ad-lib their way through without missing a beat.

Fridays and Saturdays at Havana Theatre at 10:30 p.m. Tickets $10 at instanttheatre.com

The Sunday Service

If you make it all the way through the weekend and aren’t laughed out, some of the city’s most brilliant comedic minds are waiting to welcome you at the Fox Cabaret on Main Street.

A weekly institution for nearly a decade (Mayor Gregor even proclaimed a ‘Sunday Service Day’ back in 2011), the ensemble’s unhinged brand of high-energy improv is the perfect way to put off the start of another workweek.

The two-hour show plays out in halves: first, a series of classic and re-interpreted short form games (Francophone company member Caitlin Howden translating her Anglo cast-mates’ gibberish French is a particular favourite).

In the second half, the ensemble launches into a 45-minute set of long form improv. What never ceases to amaze is how deftly the performers manage to take an absurd assortment of seemingly random characters, scenes, and themes, interweaving them into cohesive, comic gold.

Sundays at Fox Cabaret at 9 p.m. Tickets $7 at door. Info at thesundayservice.ca