Review by Jonathan Stewart
Don Harron and Catherine McKinnon's Barn Agin is an evening well spent reacquainting one with what comedy was and should be. The revue is comprised of monologues and skits performed by Don Harron with musical segments presented by Catherine McKinnon.
Don Harron's career has ranged from Stratford to Hee Haw and in Barn Agin he fulfills his reputation as a Canadian theatre legend. His comedy consists of monologues on a range of topics and transformations to other characters (most notably Charlie Farquharson, the character made famous by Hee Haw) and it relies on word play, timing, quick wit, suggestions of lewdness and gentle social satire to elicit laughs. It's comedy with brains and heart.
Mr. Harron's opening monologue has a segment on the wit of Winston Churchill and contains a gentle send up of Canadian conservative politicians like Mike Harris and Ralph Klein. The familiar routine Mr. Harron does with his Charlie Farquharson is to have the character (a well-meaning but clueless country bumpkin) discourse on a detailed and complicated subject like Shakespeare or Colombus's discovery of America. Charlie mixes and confuses and interprets the subject producing a funny amalgam of fact and fancy. In Barn Agin Charlie gives a surprisingly profound monologue on the origins of the universe. Catherine McKinnon's voice is still pristine and powerful, the songs fall into a wide range and many have a jazzy bluesy feel. John Theodore is the pianist (and sometimes backup vocalist) and gives a rollicking good accompaniment to Catherine McKinnon, and he sometimes joins into the comedic goings-on.
The setting is intimate in the Carmody Comedy Barn-the theatre built by Don and Catherine for their summer shows. Both Don Harron and Catherine McKinnon interact with the audience and the tone of the show is laid back and informal. Sometimes the performers forget lines or lyrics and have to check their cheatsheets but this feels fine in the relaxed atmosphere of the Comedy Barn. The show is a little long and there could be more balance -both the music and comedy bits should be shorter and switch between each other with greater frequency. Barn Agin is a show everyone should see-a reminder of what "funny" is.