Vancouver theatre review

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Queen Elizabeth Theatre
January 24th, 2015

Vancouver, BC: The internationally renowned Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is a New York based company of "professional male dancers performing ... ballet and modern dance including classical and original works in faithful rendition of the manners and conceits of those dance styles."
The comic effect arises from seeing masculine bodies performing movements normally danced by sylphe-like dainty ballerinas and  as the program notes state,  exaggerating the "foibles, accidents and underlying incongruities of serious dance."  For me awe and admiration arose from seeing  how masculine strength powering great technique, whether dancing en pointe or jeté-ing across the stage,  adds a totally different dimension to a familiar dance.

The company was founded in 1974 and is celebrating its 40th anniversary season tour.  The one Vancouver performance  on January 24 th, marks the first time since 1985 Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo has played Vancouver and the 2765 seat Queen Elizabeth Theatre was sold out. I was surprised that there was only one show here as both Calgary and Edmonton had two performances scheduled.

The entertainment begins even before the curtain rises, on reading the Meet the Artists section in the program. The "biographies" associated with the artists' names (some of my favorites Tatiana Youbetyabootskaya, Helen Highwater, Leftove, Paranova, Repelski) are clever and humorous.

Bullet Catch
Written and performed by Rob Drummond
Co-directed by Rob Drummond and David Overend
In association with The Arches, Glasgow.
Arts Club Revue Stage
Jan 15 to Feb 7th, 2015

Vancouver, BC: The infamous, occasionally lethal Bullet Catch is an illusion or magic trick in which the performer "catches" a bullet fired directly at him/her in the mouth or hand. Using the story of one such lethal performance told through notes from the man who unwittingly fires the fatal shot, Rob Dummond has created a performance piece for two people.

He selects his playing partner from among audience volunteers by observing their responses to hs questions, demonstrating his "mentalist" skills. This person is on stage throughout the remainder of the show. According to the program notes Bullet Catch has been publicly performed over  100 times, which means he has worked with over a hundred different  participants. This must be quite an intriguiing experience for a professional actor.

Underneath the Lintel
by Glen Berger
Directed by Paul Muir
Rosebud Theatre and Pacific Theatre
Pacific Theatre
Jan 9 to 31, 2015

Vancouver, BC:  The stage is bare save for a chalkboard, a chair, a slide projector and a large trunk covered with travel labels. A slightly disheveled man wanders in and out of the playing space, fussing with the projector, a cassette player and a too-high projection screen.
This is The Librarian (Nathan Schmidt), and he is preparing to share with us some startling discoveries. As a retired professor, I watch the fidgeting with his not-quite right audio-visual equipment with much amusement. Been there, done that ...  a lot. 

But then The Librarian brings out his most prized possession from his years at the book return desk of the library - and I realize I will never think of a date-stamper as an insignificant device again. You'll find out why!

Kayak by Jordan Hall
Directed by Rachel Peake
An Alley Theatre Production
Firehall Arts Centre
Jan 7 - 17, 2015

Vancouver, BC: In Annie Iverson and Julie Daniels, local play wright Jordan Hall has crafted two powerful female characters who engage in an epic battle for the heart and soul of Annie's son Peter. Annie (Susan Hogan) is a regular middle-class mother. She is concerned  about the environment enough to recycle her trash but her mind is far more occupied with making sure Peter (Sebastian Kroon), finishes his business degree and gets a decent corporate job. Imagine her dismay when her normally compliant son falls for Julie (Marisa Smith), an aggressive, single-minded activist nutcase who is obsessed with the idea that humans are destroying the earth and charges off at the drop of a hat to join protests around the world.

James and the Giant Peach
Based on  the book by Roald Dahl
Book by Timothy Allan McDonald
Words and Music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Carousel Theatre for Young People
Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island
Dec 6, 2014 to Jan 4, 2015

Deb Williams, Julian Lokash, Patti Allan. Photo by Tim Matheson.Vancouver, BC: Carousel Theatre's James and the Giant Peach is a visual feast to delight everyone from wide-eyed six year olds to their misty eyed grandparents. The design team of Al Frisk (Set), Lights (Gerald King), Puppets (Annett Mateo) and props (Heidi Wilkinson) have created an playing space filled with a riot of bright bold colours and objects,  in which Barbara Clayden's charming and imaginative costumes still succeed in standing out. The John Fluevog shoe junkie sitting beside me was casting looks of envy at the feet of the Bugs, clad in gorgeous Fluevog footwear.

The musical tells of the adventures of James Henry Trotter, a young boy living in an orphanage because his parents were eaten by an escaped rhinoceros. Taken to live with his only remaining family, wicked aunties Spiker (Patti Allan) and Sponge (Deb Williams), James encounters a mystery man who concocts a magic potion to help him. But things go badly wrong and James finds himself at sea on a giant peach with a collection of bugs:  Centipede (Scott Bellis), Grasshopper (Alex Rose), Earthworm (Jonathan Wimsby - who also plays the mysterious Man), Spider (Maykayla Moore) and Ladybug (Kaylee Harwood).

James is played by young Julian Lokash with the confidence and aplomb one would expect of an established actor. He put heart and soul into being James and it shows.

 

Wide Awake Hearts
By Brendan Gall
Directed by Brian Cochrane
Hardline Theatre & Twenty Something Theatre Production
Little Mountain Gallery (195 E 26th)
till Dec 20th, 2014

Vancouver, BC: Why, you might ask, would a screenwriter turned indie film producer write scorching sex scenes starring his wife, and then cast his longtime "best" friend to play her leading man? That's the starting premise of Wide Awake Hearts, a witty, fast paced play, that opened Friday night in the very intimate theatre space at Little Mountain Gallery, just off Main Street. It's just one puzzle posed by this metatheatrical work, in which "real life" and film making intertwine.

Gall does not give his four characters names but calls them A, B, C and D; a hint that these people are more ephemeral than real?  With the exception of character A who runs the gamut from confident self-promotion to jealousy, paranoia and violence, Gall's "real life" characters are as two dimensional as their celluloid counterparts. But luckily the ability of this cast to work the snappy dialogue keeps the energy high.

Speed -the-Plow
By David Mamet
Directed by David Mackay
A Mitch & Murray Production
Studio 16 (1555 W 7th Ave., Vancouver)
Nov 13 to 29, 2014

Vancouver, BC: From their opening lines, Aaron Craven and Craig Erickson take off with the hypermanic intensity of Mamet's fast moving script. Bobby Gould (Erickson) is the recently promoted Director of Production in  a major Hollywood studio, headed by Richard Ross. Bobby's long time friend Charlie Fox (Craven), who has been waiting for ever for his own big break, bursts into his office with news that a big Hollowood name from another studio wants to "cross the street" and make a prison film of a script brought to him by Fox. But they have to get the project green-lighted by Ross before 10 am the next day.

 

Urinetown: The Musical
By Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis
Directed by Donna Spencer
Musical Direction by Steve Charles
Choreography by Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg
Firehall Arts Centre
Nov 1- 29, 2014

Vancouver, BC: Take a biologically impossible premise, add songs with clever, funny lyrics, thrown in brilliant choreography with parodies of top hit musicals, provide a big bad corporate CEO in cahoots with corrupt cops and conniving politicians... call it Urinetown: The Musical and you have a hilarious satirical show that adults love, even though they are eons past their preschool bathroom-humour phase.

Blue Box
written and performed by Carmen Aguirre
directed by Brian Quirt
A Nightswimming Production
Arts Club Theatre Company
Revue Stage Granville Island
Oct 9 to  Nov 1, 2014
Vancouver, BC:  Carmen Aguirre is a true powerhouse of a performer. With minimal set or props, just her intense delivery softened by an engagingly sly smile as she zaps her audience with another provocative anecdote, she kept me riveted to her story. And what a tale she weaves!

Three Tall Women
By Edward Albee
directed by Terence Kelly
PAL Studio Theatre (581 Cardero St.)
Oct 23 to Nov 9, 2014

Vancouver, BC: I really liked this show; this is a play you do not want to miss. Albee's intriguingly crafted work is sensitively interpreted by the cast of Anna Hagan, Beatrice Zeilinger, Meaghan Chenosky and Matt Reznek.

When Three Tall Women premiered in 1994 off Broadway, it garnered for Albee the Pulitzer Award for Drama, the Drama Critics Circle Award for best play and the Outer Critics Circle award for best off-Broadway play, among many other accolades.  Interestingly I was not expecting to like it as much as I did. When I thought back to the 95/96 Vancouver production, the first time I saw this play, I remembered thinking at the time that it was a whole lot of talking and there was not much going on. This time,  being 20 years more "mature" and with two more decades of life experiences behind me, I understood, and was caught up in, just how much was in fact "going on" in this play.

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