Vancouver theatre review

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.

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.

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