Vancouver theatre review

img_1179_-_shot_4_-_money-w500-h500.jpgCymbeline
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Anita Rochon
 Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Howard Family Stage, Douglas Campbell Theatre, Vanier Park
July 4 to Sept 17, 2014

img_1435_-_money-w500-h500.jpgVancouver, BC: Cymbeline is one of the lesser known Shakespearean dramas with many characters taking on alternate identities. It is one of the few Shakespeare plays that I have never seen performed, studied or even read until now. In Cymbeline, the plot is rather convoluted and the Bard uses many of his familiar devices and characters - the poison that simulates death, disguises that are un-believably effective, lost royal heirs that are raised in poverty, the deceitful betrayer who besmirches the reputation of the virtuous heroine - and I honestly wasn’t expecting to be riveted to the stage as I am when I watch one of his great tragedies. 

But I really loved this production. Anita Rochon’s direction was crisp and incisive and this talented group of actors were able to push the limits of the multiple role casting to provide the comedic sharpness that this play needs.

img_0607_-_money-w500-h500.jpgEquivocation
by Bill Cain
Directed by Michael Shamata
 Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Howard Family Stage, Douglas Campbell Theatre, Vanier Park
July 2 to Sept 19, 2014
Vancouver, BC: I really enjoy the opportunity to see a play with a Shakespearean

Vancouver, BC: I really enjoy the opportunity to see a play with a Shakespearean “connection”  as the 4th play in a Bard on the Beach season. These plays such as Mark Leiren -Young's "Shylock" or Stoppard's "Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern", that are not of the Shakespeare's writing yet complement the current productions, add a different dimension to the Bard on the Beach experience.

This year, Bill Cain’s "Equivocation", though not specifically related to any of the three other plays on stage,  was an excellent choice and I found the play witty and thought-provoking. Filled to the brim with allusions recognizable to the Shakespearean “in” crowd, it presents an tantalizing imagined tale of how Equivocation's Shakespeare character, Shagspeare, comes to produce one of the Shakespearean tragedies most admired and performed to this day. I'll leave it to you to find out which one.

shrek_39a0653-w500-h500.jpgShrek: The Musical
Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the book by William Steig
Book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Directed by Sarah Rodgers
Music Director Christopher King, Choreographer Julie Tomaino
Theatre Under the Stars, Malkin Bowl, Stanley park.
July 11 to Aug 22, 2014

Vancouver, BC:  With my grandchildren (one a five year old) in town, this was a great opportunity to take them to see a Theatre Under the Stars musical at Malkin Bowl. The story of Shrek, the lonely ogre, was more age appropriate than Legally Blonde, which I had enjoyed last year. Seven of us trooped off to Stanley Park, hoping for a beautiful summer evening, and we got what we hoped for, a warm, almost cloudless summer night and good family entertainment.

 

wh1-w500-h500.jpgWhite Hot
by Tommy Smith
directed by Ben Ratner
The Shop Theatre, 125 E. 2 nd St.
A White Hot Equity Co-Op production
May 8 -17, 2014

i-btvwcbk-x2-w500-h500.jpgVancouver, B.C. One of the things I love about my job as a theatre reviewer is the opportunity to see off-mainstream shows by small independent theatre companies. It is also often an opportunity to learn about small funky theatre spaces which these independent companies find to use for their productions. And that's how on a rainy Vancouver night I found myself driving round the vicinity of Main and Québec Streets, trying to find a a street parking space reasonably close to The Shop Theatre, which I discovered is in the old production space of the now sadly defunct Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company.

I do not use the F-word, at least in my writing, so I will simply say instead that Tommy Smith's play is about some seriously M-essed up characters. Lil (Loretta Walsh) and Sis (Stefania Indelicato) are sisters, the yin and yang of a manic-depressive persona. Sis is a manically crazy nymphomaniac who kicks off the play with a superbly articulated, warp-speed monologue about her sex-driven, violent but empty life.  “I love when people lie to me. I love the moment when I figure it out. I’m like, there, I got white hot justice on my side.”

 

glory_wdp5478-w500-h500.jpgWatching Glory Die
Written and performed by Judith Thompson
Directed by Ken Gass
Canadian Rep Theatre
Historic Theatre at The Cultch
 April 23 to May 3rd, 2014.

Vancouver, BC:  A fourteen year old girl sent to juvenile detention for throwing an apple at a postman was incarcerated for five years until she ultimately asphyxiated herself in her cell while being watched by on duty correctional officers. The correctional officers were "following orders not to intervene until she stopped breathing." It is hard to believe that this tragic and horrific real-life story could happen in a country like Canada. Four months ago, almost 7 years after the death of Ashley Smith, an inquest jury found that her death was a homicide - in other words that the actions of others contributed to her death. No criminal or civil liability was assessed through the inquest but recommendations were made to prevent such future tragedies. 

Playwright Judith Thompson chose to tell this sad and perplexing story through the perspectives of three representative characters. Glory is the troubled 19 year old girl who has spent 5 years, much of it in "therapeutic  quiet" or isolation, in institutions of Corrections Canada. Rose is Glory's adoptive mother, who raised her from a 5 day old infant, and who, towards the end was kept away from Glory by the Corrections system. Gail represents the correctional officers or prison guards. A rough working-class woman, she is fearful of losing her job, follows orders not her conscience and is clearly not trained nor qualified to be responsible for the type of self-destructive  prisoner that Glory has become.  In this premiere production of Watching Glory Die, Thompson herself bravely returns to the stage after 35 years, to play all three roles.

floyd_dress_0375-w700-h700.jpgFloyd Collins
Music and lyrics by Adam Guettel
Book and additional lyrics by Tina Landau
Directed and choreographed by Peter Jorgenson

floyd_dress_0570-w700-h700.jpgVancouver, BC:     Long time readers of ReviewFromTheHouse may remember my stories of having to overcome my sometimes incapacitating claustrophobia to undergo magnetic resonance imaging  (Claustrophia and your MRI) and to stay calm on being trapped in a New York elevator.  What  I have never disclosed is that my first experience of severe claustrophobia occurred as a child, crawling through a confined tunnel like Floyd Collins, but in the Cango Cave system near Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape of South Africa. Like the caves of Central Kentucky, the Cango Caves are an extensive system of cave and tunnels formed in the ancient limestone strata in the foothills of the Swartberg (Black Mountain).

Merely reading about the horrific  end of the real Floyd Collins, trapped in a space eight inches high, evoked the same terrifying sense of suffocation and panic that has stayed with me since that long-ago nightmare. Even though, while watching the story unfold,  my rational self acknowledged that these were actors on stage, and the "dark cave system and confined space" where Floyd Collins (Daren Herbert) was "trapped" was a construct of Amir Ofek's clever representational set and Jeff Harrison's somber lighting, this sense of unease coloured my entire experience of this dark work.

 

night-1_humancargo_chrisgallow-w500-h500.jpgNight
Written and directed by Christopher Morris
A Human Cargo production at PuSh Festival 2014
The Roundhouse
Jan 24-26, 2014

Vancouver, BC:  The events of Night that take place over 24 hours of polar darkness, are precipitated by the unexpected arrival in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, of Daniella (Linnea Swan) a cultural anthropologist who works at the museum in Toronto.
Prompted by a letter she received, purportedly from a young girl Piuyuq (Tiffany Ayaluk) asking about her grandfather, Daniella decides to repatriate the bones of the grandfather to his family - his son (Jonathan Fisher) and grand-daughter. Daniella's arrival awakens old traumas in Piuyuq's father, and Piuyuq's best friend, Gloria (Reneltta Arluk), the real writer of the letter sees that her desire to help her friend has unintended bad consequences.

seeds_6_o-w500-h500.jpgSeeds by Annabel Soutar
​Directed by Chris Abraham
A Port Parole Production
PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and Theatre at UBC
Frederic Wood Theatre, UBC
​Jan 22-26 th, 2014

Vancouver, BC:  I must confess that as I drove out to UBC through a thick eerie fog to see Seeds, I was gearing myself up for the usual rant against big business and corporations. But what a surprise.  This docu-theatre piece of verbatim theatre ("where every word spoken onstage is a verbatim quote from court transcripts and interviews") is a fascinating, provocative and compelling presentation of a complex and multi-faceted issue. 

_0148878-w500-h500.jpgThe Seagull by Anton Chekhov, translated by Peter Gill
Directed by Kathy Duborg
Telus StudioTheatre
Theatre at UBC
Playing till Feb 8th, 2014

Vancouver, BC: So after immersing myself in Kathy Duborg's evocative production of The Seagull, and earlier in John Wright's insightful production of Uncle Vanya, at last I find myself moving beyond my antipathy to the fatalistic hopelessness of Chekhov's plays to glimpsing the Chekhovian genius for creating complex psychological characters that confound and perplex long after the final curtain. In her Director's notes Duborg writes that performing as a student in The Seagull with Chekhov's "beautiful and heartbreaking characters", opened her to a greater understanding of how to inhabit a character. The student and experienced actor has clearly become a great teacher judging by the powerful performances she has drawn from these BFA Acting students.

 ppcap1_0.jpgPride and Prejudice
adapted by Janet Munsil from the novel by Jane Austen
directed by Stuart Aikins
BlueShore Financial Cente for the Performing Arts
Capilano University
November 15 to  23, 2013

Vancouver, BC:  In the 200th anniversary year of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, the theatre programs at Capilano University and the University of British Columbia both chose to stage plays adapted from the novel.  I had the opportunity to see Theatre at UBC's Pride and Prejudice, and the Capilano University production, in the same week, affording an opportunity to compare the productions, which used adaptations by American playwright, John Jory and Canadian playwright, Janet Munsil, respectively.

Janet Munsil (Influence) is Artistic Director of Victoria's Intrepid Theatre. Her adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was commissioned in 2012 for a co-production by Theatre Calgary and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. The professional production premiered in Calgary in 2012 and then ran in Ottawa.   I was present at the penultimate performance  of the student production at Capilano, which was followed by a talk-back with Munsil and the student cast, moderated by director Aikins.  Munsil described how she had immersed herself in the plot and characters of Pride and Prejudice by reading and rereading the text, listening to audiotapes of the book, and viewing various production such as the television series. Her script as interpreted by director Aikins, led to a production that was overall presentational in style, with a realistic, conventional setting and a sweetly romantic ambience.

Decorations on the proscenium arch surrounding the closed curtains, with a male and female cameo profile on either side, evoked "Jane Austen's England at the turn of the 19 th century.” The curtains opened to a backdrop of large flowers, and moving set pieces were used to indicate the interior or exteriors of house at Longbourn, Netherfield Park or Pemberley.

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