Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker
Directed by Nicola Cavendish
Granville Island Stage,
Arts Club Theatre Company,
Sept 22 to Oct 22,2011
Vancouver, BC: The best aspect of this production for me was the way David Roberts' set design and Ted Roberts' lighting came together to create a realistic setting of a typical studio space in a school or community centre. At first we see only a opaque, reflecting rear wall of the studio up stage but back lighting reveals a corridor with more rooms opening off the far side. I really liked this effect - it transported me back to some of the weird and wonderful classes I took at local community centres.
White Biting Dog by Judith Thompson
Directed by Nancy Palk
Soulpepper Theatre Company
Michael Young Theatre,
Young Centre for Performing Arts
August 18 to Oct 1st , 2011
Toronto, ON: Two years ago I became a Judith Thompson fan when I saw Palace of The End performed in Vancouver by Alexa Devine, Russell Roberts and Laara Sadiq. I called it "a stunning theatrical experience" and the three monologues still rank in my mind as among the most compelling dramatic writing I have experienced.
White Biting Dog was written much earlier; it won the 1984 Governor-General's Award for Drama. Having also appreciated other earlier Thompson plays, The Crackwalker, and Lion in the Streets, I was eagerly anticipating this show.
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare Directed by Tariq Leslie What You Will Equity Co-op, Jericho Arts Centre July 2 to July 24, 2010
Vancouver, BC: It is a fascinating experience to see how a directorial approach can alter one's perception of a play, particularly something so familiar as Twelfth Night. The production of Twelfth Night that I saw by Bard on the Beach in the 2008 season, was played with rapid-fire intensity and fairly sparkled with light-hearted humour.
This pace of this production of Twelfth Night was much slower and more leisured. This brought out the darker aspects of the play so the overall mood of the play was heavier and more ponderous.
The Greatest Cities of the World
Creative Team: James Long, Maiko Bae Yamamoto (directors); Nneka Croal, Ruben Castelblanco, Susan Elliott, Young-Hee Kim, Andrew Laurenson, Michael Rinaldi, Tanya Podlozniuk (performers)
Vancouver East Cultural Centre 13-17 March, 2010 Vancouver, BC: The Theatre Replacement company have a reputation for being at the cutting-edge, part of a movement in Vancouver which is 'pushing the envelope': with Electric Company, Boca del Lupo, Radix, The Only Animal and Leaky Heaven Circus. This year Theatre Replacement won the big Alcan Rio Tinto award.
Their idea was to go to the small towns of Tennessee which have the names of great European cities, Paris, London, Athens and Moscow. They taped interviews, while staying sensitive to themselves as outsiders. They must have hoped that this fieldwork would provide a subject - it hasn't. Though staying close to verbatim theatre, they evidently ignored 'The Farm Show' and 'Laramie Project' as models.
The Vic by Leanna Brodie
Directed by Sarah Szloboda
A Terminal Theatre production
Jericho Arts Centre
Feb 16 th to 21 st, 2010
Vancouver, BC: This production of The Vic is an ambitious undertaking by the young Terminal Theatre company which staged its first production in the summer of 2009. For this, their third production, they might have been better served had they chosen a less convoluted play.
The Vic features 8 female characters - described as part victim, part victimisers - in four disparate story lines which finally come together - sort of. I found the continuity of this play hard to follow so without having read the script, here is what I gathered from the show.
The set is dominated by a giant screen on which brief film clips show at different points between the other scenes. This as we discover is the thread that draws the four stories together.
The play opens with women entering the darkened space, each carrying a light, the Spanish singing evoking the "desaparecidos" or "the disappeared" of Latin America. Then we see four local women searching for a missing woman, Cara (April Cameron) whose inner thoughts are revealed through her "diary" shown in the film clips. Cameron's naively wistful, young girl provides the only really sympathetic character in the story.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Book by Jeffrey Lane Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek Based on the film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels by Dale Launer, Stanley Shapiro and Paul Henning Orchestrations by Harold Wheeler; Vocal music arrangements by Ted Sperling/David Yazbek; Dance music arrangements by Zane Mark
Directed and co-choreographed by Max Reimer Co-choreographer Nathalie Marrable Music Director Steve Thomas
Vancouver, BC. If you have not already got your tickets to see this show pick up the phone or hit the keyboard soon because this is going to be another sellout holiday hit for the Vancouver Playhouse.
Although I usually watch cynically as Vancouver audiences give standing ovations I have to confess that this time I was on my feet with the rest of them.
As these photos by David Cooper show, the production was visually appealing. The songs were entertaining, the lyrics witty, the choreography terrific- and can you call any one performance a standout when all the performances including the ensemble dancing were standouts? Well, yes I guess you can.
Andrew Wheeler plays Lawrence Jameson, a suave, sophisticated, elegant con-man who leads a good life as a "prince" on the French Riviera, by charming rich women out of their money and possessions. Smooth as Michael Caine was in the 1988 film version, I remember thinking at the time that he would never have been able to con me. But I have to admit that if I encountered Wheeler's smooth "prince" persona - and if he could dance - I mean real ballroom not the stage variety - he could probably con me into supporting a war effort in his non-existent kingdom as easily as he did the other women- as long as he would waltz with me!
Lawrence's ally in his nefarious activies is Andre, the chief of police, played with gusto and a wonderfully bad French accent by David Marr, who really excels in this type of comic role.
A Steady Rain by Keith Huff Directed by John Crowley Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45th St., NY Sept 12 In preview: opening September 29th, 2009
New York, NY. Two men seated on an otherwise empty stage - the playing space surrounded by black drapes, briefly opened to reveal tall buildings on either side of a dark alley, or briefly lluminated to create the illusion of a forest. No props, no fancy set, nothing to draw our attention away from the two Chicago beat cops, relating the events of a summer when the rain poured incessantly and the world as they knew it came crashing down on them.
A Steady Rain runs about 90 minutes without intermission, and I was mesmerized for the entire time. The play is still in preview, which started two days ago, but Daniel Craig (Joey) and Hugh Jackman (Denny) produced outstanding performances, worthy of Keith Huff's well crafted script. The play was directed by John Crowley, whose work I last saw in the 2005 Broadway production of Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman.
One of the interesting things about on-line reviews is the capacity for rapid rebuttal of comments and discussion. I encourage people to comment on any aspect of my posts that they like or dislike. Occasionally they do.
One such anonymous reader of my review on Via Beatrice , disagreed with my take on the music aspect and commented accordingly. Unfortunately a technical glitch seems to be affecting the comments but until I get it fixed I thought his/her points were worth a separate post.
I did confess that my knowledge of music was at a Music 101 level and my friendly commenter had a suggestion for that too!
The Road to Canterbury by Sebastien Archibald
Directed by Chelsea Haberlin
Queen Elizabeth Park - at the Bloedel Conservatory
Nightly at 7 pm August 5 to 21, 2009; no show Sunday. Sat 2 pm matinee,
Vancouver, BC: Mercifully when I did my Survey Course in English Literature, I was only required to read three relatively short poems by Geoffrey Chaucer - Middle English does not make for an easy read - so I confess that what little I know about The Canterbury Tales comes from reading summaries in contemporary English, the lazy student's friends - Spark Notes and Cliff Notes. But ignorance of the original Chaucer material did not at all diminish my enjoyment of this romp through Queen Elizabeth Park. As author Sebastian Archibald points out in his playwright's notes, he has chosen to use Chaucer's techniques of satire and social commentary, to adapt - very loosely - five of the tales into somewhat more "modern" versions. So not to worry - Middle English is not required here.
Much as Chaucer conjured up a group of strangers, joining together for a pilgrimage to the tomb of the saint Thomas Becket (archbishop of Canterbury who was assassinated in his cathedral for his defiance of the king) so our tour guide Host (Peter Carlone) gathers up his group of travellers to take them on a walk through the Gardens. Partly escorted, partly chivied along by a paranoid, tattooed, gun-toting Mercenary (Jason Moldowan) we follow the host down the path to a spot where he draws tickets for a tale-telling contest. The five winners of the contest are the Mercenary, the pot-smoking supercilious Bohemian (Amitai Mormorstein), the gin-swilling much married Dowager (Ella Simon), the demure, wide-eyed Teacher (Katie Takefman) and the snake-oil selling Preacher (Colby Wilson).
Richard II by William Shakespeare
Directed by Christopher Weddell
Studio Stage at Vanier Park
Bard on the Beach
till September 18, 2009
Vancouver's Bard on the Beach Company has undertaken as a "noble goal" to stage Shakespeare's entire dramatic canon by the 25th anniversary of the company, five years hence. As part of this ambitious objective, Bard will be presenting a cycle of Shakespeare's History Plays through the 2009 to 2011 seasons as discussed in my How They See It Chat with Bard Artistic Director, Christopher Gaze.This year's staging of Richard II starts this series of plays. While most people have some familiarity with the more frequently produced story of Shakespeare's twisted, malevolent, murdering Richard III, I suspect that, like I until recently, they don't know too much about where Richard II fits into the whole English kings / Wars of the Roses saga.
Here is a bit of the pre-history.
King Edward III had five sons who survived to adulthood. The oldest , Edward the Black Prince was the father of Richard. When the Black Prince died, Richard became the heir apparent and a year later, on the death of Edward III, the 10 year old Richard succeeded his grandfather as King of England. The country was governed by councils until Richard was old enough to rule. Two of Richard's uncles, John of Gaunt, a man of influence and power, and Edmund, Duke of York, and their sons also play important parts in Shakespeare's version of events. The murder of a third uncle, the Duke of Gloucester is the trigger that initiates the events in Richrd II.
When the play begins King Richard II (Haig Sutherland) has a problem. His cousin Henry Bolingbroke (John Murphy) has accused Sir Thomas Mowbray (Craig Erickson) of murdering Riichard's uncle the Duke of Gloucester. Rumour has it that Richard had secretly ordered the murder. The king decides that Bolingbroke and Gloucester may duel it out, but before the fight begins, Richard exiles Bolingbroke for ten years and banishes Mowbray for life. Bolingbroke leaves, and shortly thereafter his father, John of Gaunt (Duncan Fraser), dies. The King needs money to suppress a rebellion in Ireland so he disinherits Bolingbroke, grabs the estate and takes off to Ireland, leaving his uncle, Duke of York (David Marr) in charge. Bolingbroke comes back to England to demand his inheritance be restored. The populace support Bolingbroke and not Richard. The king's pals, Sir John Bushy (Craig Erickson) and Sir Henry Green (Ashley O'Connell) wont defend him. Having screwed up royally, so to speak, in Ireland, Richard arrives back in England with no army and no support. He cedes his crown to Bolingbroke who becomes King Henry IV. Bolingbroke expresses concern about his son, Henry, who is running wild in bad company - setting the storyline up for Henry IV parts 1 and 2. Richard goes to prison to reflect on his life and folly but is murdered there by Exton (Craig Erickson).. The new king is "horrified" when told of the murder, exiles Exton, and decides to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to atone.