theatre review

Lori Watt and Lisa Dery, Photo by Wendy D.The Odd Couple by Neil Simon
Directed by David C. Jones
A Frolicking Divas Production
Jericho Arts Centre
March 8 to 17, 2012

Vancouver, BC: With Vancouver's theatre community reeling from the news that the Vancouver Playhouse Company is closing its doors, some light entertainment is sorely needed. Vancouver is rich in ambitious, new independent theatre companies and one such group, The Folicking Divas, has brought the female version of Simon's Odd Couple to the Jericho stage.

The Female Odd Couple, a version written by Simon for a female cast  some twenty years after his1965  original Broadway hit, features Olive Madison (Lisa Dery), an unapologetically sloppy, non-cooking independent gal and Florence Ungar (Lori Watt), an obsessive, housekeeping type, whose joy in life is to elimate any speck of dust and produce healthy home-cooked meals. When Olive lets the newly separated Florence move into her Riverside Drive apartment, it is anything but a "marriage made in heaven."

The program for SeminarSeminar by Theresa Rebeck,
Directed by Sam Gold,
101 Productions,Ltd..,
Golden Theatre,
January 24th, 2012

New York, NY: I had seven time slots to see theatre during my week in New York, and so many tantalizing possibilities to chose from. Seminar was one of my first choices, both for the subject matter, namely a workshop for young aspiring writers, and for the rare opportunity to see Alan Rickman on stage. Rickman and the other four cast members performed superbly, the on-stage energy and chemistry of the ensemble was remarkable and the design aspects were as excellent as I would expect of a Broadway production.

Yet I did not have a "wow - I really  want to see this again" response to this play and I left feeling vaguely disappointed. The next day I saw a matinee performance of Other Desert Cities and this helped clarify what for me was missing in Seminar.  I think the fundamental problem lies in the script which lacks tension and and is populated by shallow, facile characters.

audience mask from Sleep No MoreSleep No More
Directed by Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle
Designed by Barrett, Livi Vaughan and Beatrice Minns
Choreography by Doyle
Sound Design by Steven Dobbie
Lighting Design by Barrett and Euan Maybank
Costume Design by David Israel Reynoso
An Emursive and Punchdrunk production
McKittrick Hotel, New York
Held over till March, 2012

One of the hottest theatre tickets in town is the audience immersive experience, Sleep No More. Sleep No More is the creation of Punchdrunk, a British dance Company who originated the show in London in 2003, bringing it to Boston and then to New York.  Loosely, very loosely, based on Macbeth, with elements of film noir and Rebecca thrown in, it is physical theatre set in "found space." in this case the setting is the abandoned McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea. The audience, each person wearing a mask, and bound to keep silent at all times follows actors around as the various stories unfold. Its New York run has been extended several times and is currently set to run to March 24th, 2012.

We arrived for our 7 PM time slot on a freezing cold night.  We lined up on the snow covered pavement outside the entrance to the old McKittrick Hotel. To quote from the Sleep No More website "Completed in 1939, the McKittrick Hotel was intended to be New York City's finest and most decadent luxury hotel of its time. Six weeks before opening, and two days after the outbreak of World War II, the legendary hotel was condemned and left locked, permanently sealed from the public. Until now..."  Tantalizing - because nowhere could I find any details about the building as a hotel and why the hotel was condemned.

The Relativity scenarioMath Out Loud
Written and directed by Mackenzie Gray
with additional material by Roger Kemp
Producers  Dale Hartleben and Roger Kemp
Choreography Joel Sturrock
Music  by Mackenzie Gray, Joe Docherty,  Sayer Roberts.
Frederick Wood Theatre, UBC
Dec 14, 2011

Vancouver, BC. Lining the wall alongside the staircase in the house where my kids grew up were prints by M. C. Escher, a Dutch graphic artist whose drawings of infinite staircases, morphing shapes and distorted geometry are instantly recognizable.

Looking through the 2011 Vancouver Fringe Festival Guide can be quite an overwhelming experience. With more than 80 different shows in various venues on and off Granville Island, some by known performers, others by newbies, how do you pick a manageable selection of performances to attend?

Having just returned from a marathon theatre-going trip to  Stratford, and SummerWorks and Soulpepper in Toronto plus a Labour Day Weekend visit to Chicago, I decided to be sensible this time and pace myself at the Fringe.

So ultimately my choices were based, for no good reason, on a combination of timetable and venue. For my first available day at the Fringe I picked three plays running sequentially at the Waterfront Theatre, at 1:35, 3:30 and 5:30

All three were approximately hour long monologues by experienced performers and I thought that would be an interesting and fair comparison as well as hopefully good entertainment.

The cast of August: Osage County. Photo by David CooperAugust: Osage County by Tracy Letts
Directed by Janet Wright
An Arts Club Theatre Production,
Stanley Theatre Industrial Alliance Stage
Jan 27 to Feb 27, 2011

Vancouver, BC: The 2008 Tony Award and Pulitzer Drama Award-winning play, August: Osage County has created a buzz where ever it has been performed. I missed seeing it in London and New York - have to time my visits better - so I was quite excited to see why this play has had such an impact.

After partaking of the Dine Out Vancouver menus at Red Door Pan Asian Grill, we strolled north two blocks to the Stanley Theatre. I was really hoping that the show would live up to my expectations, and it did.

It has an unusual structure for a contemporary play. With a large cast as pictured,  it is long with a running time of around three hours and structured as a prologue, followed by three acts. Yet despite my often short attention span, in this case I was completely engrossed in the dramas of the Weston family from the opening lines to the final scene.

Michael Kopsa and Tom Pickett. Photo by Tim MathesonPlayland by Athol Fugard
Directed by Anthony Ingram
Pacific Theatre
Nov 5 - 27, 2010

I grew up in South Africa during the apartheid era and moved to Canada some 15 years before the time in which this play is set. Ironically it was here in Canada rather than in South Africa that I learned about and became an admirer of Athol Fugard 's plays. 

The Singing in the rain ensemble: Photo by Tim MathesonSinging in the  Rain
Book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green; Songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed
Director Shel Piercy; Music Director Wendy Bross-Stewart; Choreographer Shelley Stewart-Hunt
Theatre Under the Stars,
Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park
Alternating nights to August 20th, 2010

Vancouver, BC. As much as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat  will enchant children this summer, adult audiences will enjoy this production of Singing in the Rain. Although the words "singing in the rain" can't help but  evoke the iconic image  of  Gene Kelly  in the 1952 movie, the fun this TUTS cast has with the story managed to get the movie images out of my mind.

The cast of Joseph: Photo by Tim MathesonJoseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
Directed by Shel Piercy;
Music Director Kevin Michael Cripps;
Choreographer Keri Minty
Theatre Under the Stars,
Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park
Alternating nights to August 20th, 2010

Vancouver, BC.  TUTS could not have asked for a more perfect evening to open their 2010 season. The evening air was warm, and the strong winds that blew through Vancouver yesterday had moved on to bluster across  another part of the province.  This year TUTS have instituted reserved seating throughout, a move that seemed to be appreciated by all.

We arrived early, after enjoying a delicious meal at the Tapastree restaurant just off  Denman Street, and sat down to enjoy the lively pre-show music.

The Cast: Photo by Jo-Ann RichardsThe 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Music and Lyrics by William Finn and Book by Rachel Sheinkin
Directed by Michael Shamata. Musical Director Bruce Kellett
Arts Club Theatre/ Belfry Theatre production
Arts Club Granville Island Stage
June 15 to July 31, 2010

Vancouver, BC: I walked out of the Arts Club Theatre after seeing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee thinking, much to my surprise, that it was actually a little gem of a musical and perfectly suited to the Granville Island Stage.  I really had not anticipated enjoying it as much as I did, so kudos to Michael Shamata and his cast.

This is because four years ago when I was  writing "Rants, Raves and Reviews" for Immediate Theatre, I saw The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at The Circle in the Square Theatre in New York. That's a 650 seat theatre, larger than the 450 seat Granville Island Stage - and in retrospect it seemed much more cavernous than the Stanley which also has about 650 seats. I wonder whether the barn-like nature of the New York venue, and the fact that I was seated way back in the "bleachers" contributed to my grumpiness about the show at the time (Songs, Dances, Paintings -The Curtain Falls). My comments then were that "the story line was weak, the music unmemorable and the choreography unremarkable. The show runs for about an hour and 45 minutes with no intermission and my attention began to flag after the first hour."

Allison MacDonald, Josh Epstein and Trace<br />
Neff. Photo by David  CooperThis was not so for this energetic and funny Arts Club/Belfry production, which I enjoyed a lot. Fitting in nicely with the concept of the show, Shamata inserted a "snack break" midway through the Bee which means that those of us with short attention spans and stiffening joints got to come back relaxed and eagerly anticipating the second half of the show. 

Rosie Simon as Marcy Park. Photo by David CooperAnd this time I was also thoroughly engaged by the individual characters of the young spellers and their back- stories, which actually touch on quite weighty issues like parental neglect, sibling rivalry, and perfectionism. Not to mention that I found myself laughing out loud at some of their antics.<--break->

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