The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Directed by Jane Heyman
Studio 58 at Langara College
Sept 29 to Oct 16, 2011.
Vancouver, BC: "The play's the thing!" and Arthur Miller's play written almost 60 years ago has not lost one iota of its power to captivate. The Crucible is set in Salem village, Massachusetts in 1692, notorious for the witch trials resulting in nineteen people hanging for supposedly being witches. Miller's play premiered on Broadway in 1952, five years after the House Committee for Un-American Activities had begun an investigation into communist influence in the Hollywood movie industry. Several hundred actors, directors and screen writers accused by this committee were blacklisted and their lives and careers ruined. The Crucible serves an allegorical function, the religious hysteria of seventeenth century Massachusetts stands in for the anti-communist hysteria of the 20th century. Both forces were driven by rabid believers who forced innocent people into the moral dilemma of false confessions or naming names of associates, to save their own lives.
Three Days of Rain by Richard Greenberg
Directed by Victor Ayala,
Ninja Pirates Theatre Company
June 28 to July 3, 2011
Vancouver, BC: I was about to join friends for a farewell dinner at Salade de Fruits Cafe at the French Cultural Centre on West 7th. The Centre is also home to the Studio 16 black box theatre. As I entered, the poster for the play that was opening that night in Studio 16, caught my eye. It was Three Days of Rain by Richard Greenberg, the first play in a book with a 4 play collection by Greenberg, that was sitting on a bookshelf in my apartment. I remembered that on reading the play some time ago, I had thought what a fantastic acting challenge it would present and I was curious to learn who was tackling it.
As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Directed by David Mackay
Bard on the Beach,
Bard Mainstage, Vanier Park,
June 2 to Sept 24, 2011
Vancouver, BC: Bard on the Beach opens its 2011 season with As You Like it - and like it I did, a lot. Though I have always preferred watching the intense drama of Shakespeare's tragedies to the whimsical frolics of mistaken identities and gender bending of his comedies, I really enjoyed this production.
The Great Divorce
adapted by George Drance and Magis Theatre
from the novel by C.S. Lewis
Directed by Kyle Rideout
May 20 - June 18, 2011
Vancouver, BC: On my last visit to New York one of the plays I saw was The Screwtape Letters, adapted by Jeffrey Fiske from the epistolary novel by C.S. Lewis. The letters are written by Screwtape, Satan's chief demon to his hapless nephew, Wormwood, advising him on how best to tempt humans to sin. I was enthralled by the charismatic and dominating Screwtape, amazed at the sinuous contortions of his demonic assistant Toadpipe, and the whole experience was devilishly wicked, funny and at all times entertaining.
The Great Divorce, originally published in serial form in a religious journal, was a complementary novella to Lewis's Screwtape Letters. I was therefore quite excited to see that Pacific Theatre was staging an adaptation of this book and hoped for a similarly entertaining show.
The Will Rogers Follies 'A Life in Revue'
Book: Peter Stone Music: Cy Coleman
Lyrics: Betty Comden and Adolf Green
Directed and choreographed by Valerie Easton
Musical Director James Bryson
A Royal City Musical Theatre production
Apr 7 - 24, 2011
Vancouver, BC: The Royal City Musical Theatre's production of The Will Rogers Follies is an entertainment packed spectacle with a gorgeously costumed ensemble of sparkling young singers and dancers supporting the principal cast of Matt Palmer (Will Rogers), Sara-Jeanne Hosie (Betty Blake), Tyson Coady (Clem Rogers), Laura McNaught (Ziegfeld's favorite) and Dimitrios Stephanoy (Wiley Post).
It is somewhat embarrassing for me to admit that in all the time I have lived in Vancouver I have never been out to the Massey Theatre nor seen one of the Royal City Musical Theatre productions until now. But last night I finally made it out to New Westminster to see the The Will Rogers Follies and I will definitely be watching out for their future productions.
Another Home Invasion by Joan MacLeod
Directed by Richard Rose
A Tarragon Theatre production
Arts Club Theatre Company Revue Stage
Mar 31 - Apr 23, 2011
Vancouver, BC: Take a finely tuned script with not a wasted word, a "there but for the grace of God" story, and a performer who completely embodies her character - and you have a show that grabs its audience and does not let go for a full 70 minutes.
Nicola Lipman is Jean, a feisty senior, who is worn out by anxiety about her beloved husband, who is increasingly showing signs of dementia. She is willing to move out of their family home and into a care home and her heart is set on the local Kiwanis facility which has rooms for couples. But she and her husband have been on a wait list for two and a half years and now he needs more supportive care. Will they be separated, or have to be relocated, heaven forbid, to Abbotsford?
How To Disappear Completely
Starring Itai Erdal
Written by Itai Erdal in collaboration with James Long, Anita Rochon & Emelia Symington Fedy
Directed by James Long
At the Wosk 2nd Stage, JCCGV
February 17 - 27, 2011
Guest review by Sean Cummings
To say How To Disappear Completely is theatre is correct. It is definitely theatrical. But the narrator is not a character in a play. Rather he spends his time telling the audience an intensely personal story about his journey back home to his native Israel to be with his mother for the final months of her life.
What could have been a self-centered spiral into the depths of grief turned out to be a well executed story whose artistic achievement is to seemingly place the audience smack dab in the middle of the narrator's experience.
This article was supposed to be posted before the book launch of Crossing on Saturday 26th February. However on the 26th I was in a room at VGH, recovering from my spine surgery the previous day. So with apologies to Chris Gatchalian and the production crew and cast that premiered Crossing in 2004, I am posting it now.
I asked Gatchalian to respond briefly to some questions about his play writing history.
RFTH: What was your first play produced?
My first produced play was Motifs & Repetitions. I wrote it in 1995, when I was in my first year of the BFA Creative Writing program at UBC. It was produced at Brave New Playrites, which is UBC's annual festival of short one act-plays written by Creative Writing students.
The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Stephen Drover
A Wild Geese Equity Co-op Production
Jericho Arts Centre
Feb 19 to Mar 6, 2011
Wed through Sun at 8 PM
Vancouver, BC: I freely confess - uncoerced by any implement of torture - that I probably viewed the Wild Geese Co-op production of The Pillowman through a different lens than most of their audiences will be using.
The Pillowman was the subject of my final term paper in a course on Modern British Drama and as an obsessively over-achieving mature student, I assiduously mined the text for every subtlety and nuance I could find. My issues were around authorial voice, whether "scriptor" or reader gives meaning to text, Death of the Author (concretized in McDonagh's script) ... and other such academic ideas.
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Directed by John Cooper
Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company
Feb 12 to Mar 5, 2011
Vancouver, BC: If the dream of a young male actor is to play Hamlet, then Willy Loman would be the dream role for a theatre veteran.
In what must be one of the virtuoso performances of his career, Tom McBeath does not merely play Willy Loman. He is Willy Loman; a sad, pathetic, bone-weary 63 year old road salesman, who can no longer distinguish between the incomprehensible real world he inhabits, and the fantasy world he has built in his own mind. As Loman flashed back and forth between reality and and his dream world, there was not a micro-second in which McBeath did not carry me with him, often causing an errant tear to leak onto my cheeks.