Vancouver theatre review

Pride and Prejudice
by John Jory, adapted from the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Lois Anderson
Theatre at UBC
Frederic Wood Theatre,
November 13 to 30, 2013

Vancouver, BC: I first lost my heart to Mr. Darcy when I was sixteen. Pride and Prejudice was our assigned novel for matriculation English. King Lear was our Shakespeare tragedy assignment, and together these works instilled in me a love for English Literature that will last a lifetime.

I retrieved my heart from Austen's hero when I gave it over to my real-life sweetheart although I confess, like women and girls around the world, I nearly lost it again to Colin Firth in the 1995 television mini-series. Jane Austen's feisty Elizabeth, sweet Jane, charming Mr. Bingley and strong, silent Mr. Darcy have been enchanting readers since Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813. 

Hawksley Workman. Photo by Trudy Lee.The God that Comes
Starring Hawksley Workman
Conceived and directed by Christian Barry
Created by Hawksley Workman and Christian Barry
2b Theatre Company
Historic Theatre at the Cultch,
Nov 13 to 24, 2013
 

Vancouver, BC: In a non-stop 75 minutes of narration, music and song, this virtuoso performer presents the story of Euripides'  The Bacchae as a one man rock opera. Since the cast list of The Bacchae consists of 8 characters not to mention the 15 person Greek Chorus, it's quite a feat that he undertakes.
The setting is Thebes, a city  in ancient Boeotia in central Greece, ruled by Pentheus, grand-son of Cadmus, the founder of Thebes. Cadmus has four daughters: Agave is the mother of Pentheus.  As legend tells us, Agave's sister Semele is fancied by Zeus, who gets her pregnant, much to the fury of Hera, Zeus' long suffering wife. Semele gets blown up by Zeus' lightning flash (that's another story) but Zeus saves her unborn son, who becomes Dionysus, God of Wine and orgies and other fun happenings. Incidentally a third daughter is Ino, who is the wicked stepmother from whom Helle and Phrixus are rescued by the Golden ram - connecting to the naming of the Hellespont and the story of Jason and the Argonauts. (See my story of the Black Sea Cruise: Batumi, Georgia).  All right then; I do love the ancient myths but that's more information than is needed right now, so back to Pentheus.

 

Cocktails at Pam's
by Stuart Lemoine
Directed by Stephen Heatley
Staircase Theatre Equity Collective
Studio 1398 (3rd Floor Festival House, 1398 Cartwright St)
Nov 13 to 30th at 8 Pm, Nov 30th at 2 PM.

Vancouver, BC: I hate cilantro. I am in a very select minority of around 15% of humans who are genetically programmed to detest that soapy green herb that chefs and party hostesses in the not-similarly-afflicted 85%, love to use as garnishes or flavourings. I hate the taste so much that in my Sipping and Supping food blog over a two year period, I ranted about cilantro in at least eighteen different stories until I realized "enough already".

So when Estelle, an unexpected guest at Pam's cocktail party, rants about her distaste for green peppers and the presence of green peppers on all the canapés being served, I didn't know whether to feel bad for hostess Pam  or to cheer Estelle on.

A rude guest with an anti-green pepper fixation is just one of the disasters that disrupts the perfect party that Pam has so painstakingly planned. In Cocktails at Pam's,  originally written in the mid-eighties, playwright Lemoine, a master of the one-act comedy, sets this situation up neatly.

When Pam (Maryanne Renzetti) first appears in her living room to reassure herself that everything is set out just perfectly for her party, anyone who has ever hosted a similar gathering can't help empathizing with her. But slowly you realize that this is not just an ordinary gathering of friends and Pam is not just a normally anxious hostess.

Communion by Daniel MacIvor
Directed by Roy Surette
Ruby Slippers Theatre Company
Pacific Theatre
October 25 to Nov 9, 2013
Vancouver, BC:  Communion - the sharing or exchanging of the mental or spiritual thoughts or feelings.
Played with no intermission, Communion (the play) is a three part drama in which three women, Leda (Diane Brown), her daughter Ann (Marcie Nestman) and her therapist, Carolyn (Kerry Sandomirsky) try to reconcile their beliefs and experiences about atheism, Catholicism, born-again Christian anti-abortion fanaticism, mortality and after-life, sexual orientation, love and rejection, while seeking a pathway through personal crises.

Venus in Fur
by David Ives
Directed by David Mackay
Arts Club Theatre Company
Granville Island Stage
- to November 2nd.

Vancouver, BC: Although I have laughed my way through my copy of Time Flies, a collection of very funny, very short plays by David Ives, I have neither read nor seen any productions of his longer works and the unexpected complexity of this play took me by surprise. Rapid changes of character and switching power dynamics kept me on the edge, alert to the varying nuance of posture and voice so as not to miss a beat of the performance. Sexy and provocative - who knew that the act of guiding a long leather boot onto a leg could be so erotic? Kinky comedy indeed, this is no average guy-meets-gal comedy

Riverview High: The Musical
Directed by Mike Mackenzie
Music and Musical Direction by Stuart Yu
 Lyrics by Stuart Yu and Mike Mackenzie
Book by Angela Wong
Choreography by Dawn Ewen
At The Firehall until August 24th, 2013

Vancouver, BC: Vancouver has talent! And it really showed at the opening night of Riverview High.
I must confess I did not know what to expect. Developed over a mere 17 months by the local creative team of Angela Wong, Stewart Yu, Mike Mackenzie and Dawn Ewen, Riverview High: The Musical had its  world  premiere in Sept 2012 at the Vancouver Fringe Festival. Despite seeing as many Fringe shows as I could  (Vancouver Fringe Festival 2012 Part I ) I missed this one, which was voted Pick of the Fringe and later garnered Ovation awards for Outstanding Production (Small Theatre) and for three of the performers.

Set in 1996, it's all about teen love triangles. Alex (Erik Gow), the Don Juan of the graduating class accidentally invites both sweet blonde Cathy (Alex Gullason) and sexy rich brunette Erica (Ranae  Miller) to the prom, much to the disappointment of nerdy Dexter (Caleb di Pomponio) who loves Cathy, and suave Randy (Lucas Blaney) who fancies Erica.

The Farnsworth Invention
by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Matthew Bissett
Ensemble Theatre Company
Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery Street.
Plays July 19, 22, 25, 31 (talk back), and August 3, 6, 9th at 8 PM with 2 pm matinees on July 21 and 27.

Vancouver, BC:  After enjoying an excellent pre-show dinner at Fable restaurant we headed to Jericho Arts Centre for opening night of The Farnsworth Invention. Since I was reviewing the show, I stuck to my rule of not indulging in even one glass of wine. This was smart, because this script demands concentrated attention.

Legally Blonde: The Musical
Music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin
Book by Heather Hach
Directed and choreographed by Valerie Easton
Musical Direction by Danny Balkwill
Theatre Under the Stars
Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park
Playing alternate nights until August 17th, 2013

Vancouver, BC: It was another perfect night at Malkin Bowl in Vancouver. The sky was clear, the temperature hovered around 20ºC and I didn't even need a jacket. We Vancouverites, who have sat through cold and rainy summer nights in Stanley Park, prayed to the weather fairies that these glorious days and nights would last till September, and sat back to revel in musical theatre in the park.

As for Legally Blonde: the Musical, developed from the 2001 film which in turn was based on Amanda Brown's novel Legally Blonde, - I enjoyed it so much I hope to find a time to bring my grand-daughter (California blonde of course) to see it when she comes to visit. 

 

The plot follows the journey of Elle Woods (Breanne Arrigo), blonde fashionista President of the UCLA Delta Nu, to Harvard Law School in pursuit of her ambitious preppy boyfriend, Warner (Peter Cumins) who had dumped her for the more "serious" and well-connected Vivienne (Andrea Bailey). Bringing her unique style into the classroom, Elle runs into the feared Professor Callahan (Warren Kimmel) and the supercilious attitudes of her ambitious classmates.

Hamlet
By Wlliam Shakespeare
Directed by Kim Collier
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival,
BMO Mainstage at Vanier Park
June 13 to September 12, 2013

Vancouver, BC: It is said that every actor wants to play Hamlet, and many great actors have, on stage and screen. So kudos to Jonathon Young for a passionate and riveting performance that drew fresh nuances from so many familiar lines and garnered a standing ovation from much of the sold-out house. In this marvelously complex play, young Hamlet has to find his path through so many issues; the revelation that the death of his revered father, the King,  was in fact a murder; when this revelation comes from his father's Ghost (Duncan Fraser) can it be real? how could his newly widowed mother turn so quickly to a new lover; what to do with the beautiful young  Ophelia when his thoughts are dominated by the need for revenge? Young makes his interpretation of every line crystal clear.

Spring Awakening
Book and Lyrics by Steven Slater
based on the play by Frank Wedekind
Music by Duncan Sheik
Directed by David Hudgins
Musical Director Andy Toth
Choreographer  Shelley Stuart Hunt
at Studio 58, Langara College
Jan 31 to  Feb 24, 2013

Vancouver, BC: I have been waiting to see this show for several years. It seems like every time it is on in a particular city, I have either just missed it or leave before it opens so I am  glad to have finally caught this show, especially with the talented students of Studio 58 taking on what is quite a challenging work.

Based on Frank Wedekind's  controversial 1891 play, Spring Awakening, about burgeoning sexuality in a group of young people in 19th century Germany, the rock musical adaptation does not hold back in portraying the raw sexuality of the youth in question, nor the fears and the ignorance of both youth and adults in the provincial German town in which it's set.

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