1623 is a sketch troupe, presenting at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, that uses comedy to probe the –isms that have plagued us throughout history. Blending the historical with the contemporary, Kat Letwin and Nkasi Ogbonnah examine our social ills and mine them for humour.
They open with a really clever bit of allegory involving a stolen makeup compact that stands in for Indigenous land. The gradual reveal of the sketch’s meaning is what makes it so effective. And the conclusion—a really absurd “acknowledgement”—is perfectly on point.
Justin Trudeau summoning the ghost of Sir John A. MacDonald and learning how the mistakes of the present echo the those of the past is both silly and resonant. Another highlight is a xenophobic professor’s absurdist lecture about a time travel murder conspiracy.
Both Letwin and Ogbonnah are compelling performers with distinct, complementary energies. Together, they maintain a satisfying ebb and flow between an uplifting, manic intensity and the harsh truth that sometimes hits very close to home.
Their riskiest sketch is a Me Too scenario that pits a hard-ball lawyer up against her client, a young athlete who has had some inappropriate attention from a coach. Letwin and Ogbonnah convey some surprisingly unfiltered pain and rage here, but they are masters of tone and find the humour without diminishing the gravitas.