Vancouver theatre review

RACE
By David Mamet
Directed by David Mackay
Mitch and Murray Productions
Studio 16, 1555 West 7th Avenue, Vancouver
Running until December 1st, Tuesday - Saturday at 8pm.

Guest Review by Jo Ledingham

Vancouver, BC. This production of David Mamet’s Race (which premiered on Broadway in 2009) will have you leaping out of the starting blocks and sprinting all the way to the finish line. Directed by David Mackay, it’s all over in seventy minutes. It’s a potent, profanity-studded exposé of racism and misogyny so interlocked as to be inseparable.

It’s also an interesting bookend to Mamet’s Romance produced last fall at the Fringe. In Romance, the playwright slags lawyers and the legal system in a searing but exceedingly entertaining way: a judge who’s so medicated he can’t stay awake, lawyers who exchange racial and religious slurs and a client who may or may not be guilty of whatever the charge is – but who cares? That’s not the point.

Master Class
By Terence McNally
Directed by Meg Roe
Arts Club Granville Island Stage,
Arts Club Theatre Company
Sept 27 to Oct 27, 2012.

Vancouver, BC.  Voice students, Sophie (Shannon Chan-Kent) and Tony (Frédérik Robert) wander around the stage doing their vocal warm up. Manny (Angus Kellett), the accompanist, sits playing at the piano and The Stagehand (Felix LeBlanc) clomps around. It's the 1971-72 academic year at New York's Juilliard School, and the great diva, Maria Callas (Gina Chiarelli) is here to teach. The house lights are still up as Callas sweeps onto the stage and calls for them to be dimmed. We, the audience, are here to watch her conduct a master class. Sophie, Tony and Sharon (Melanie Krueger)  are the eager students who are about to become her "victims".

Attempts on her Life
By Martin Crimp
Directed by Katrina Dunn
Studio 58,
Langara College
Sept 27 to Oct 14, 2012

Vancouver, BC: Kudos to director, Katrina Dunn, and her cast  of 15 Studio 58 students, who made the one hour and 40 minutes of Martin Crimp's extraordinary "play" pass in a flash.  Martin Crimp is a contemporary British playwright and translator, whose 1997 play, Attempts on her Life, challenges conventional theatrical form and structure.  There is no storyline, no pre-defined characters and no pre-defined setting. This play consists of 17 apparently unrelated scenarios in which characters provide differing perspectives of a protagonist, Annie, whom we never actually meet on stage. Does she really exist or is she a construct of "woman" - daughter, mother, sexual object?

The Duchess  a.k.a. Wallis Simpson
By Linda Griffiths
Directed by Sarah Rodgers
Theatre at UBC
Telus Studio Theatre
Sep 20 to Oct 6, 2012

Vancouver, BC.  Linda Griffith's play is a challenging piece of theatre but under the direction of Sarah Rodgers, the ten students of UBC's final year BFA class, playing 25 characters, managed to pull it off with a flair that would have made the duchess proud.  Griffiths has re-imagined the commonly known saga of the love affair between Edward VIII, reluctant heir to the throne of England,  and the charming upstart American divorcee, Wallis  Simpson, later Duchess of Windsor, for whom he renounced his crown.

She sets the story within the frame of the auctioning of the duchess's jewellery collection. The famed rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds are reflected in the jewel tones of the gorgeous costumes designed by Miriam Thom.

Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris
Directed by Janet Wright
Arts Club Theatre Company
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
Sept 6 to October 7, 2012

Vancouver, BC: Get your tickets for the Arts Club's Clybourne Park. It's a well acted production of a cleverly conceived and written script (winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama), and an excellent evening's entertainment.

Set in the same house in a Chicago suburb, fifty years apart, Norris's biting script examines inter-racial tensions that centre around neighborhoods and communities, and how ordinary people react to perceived threats from the insertion of "the other"  into their home environments.  

JERSEY BOYS: The story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Directed by Des McAnuff
Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Music by Bob Gaudio
Lyrics by Bob Crewe
Choreography by Sergio Trujillo
Queen Elizabeth Theatre
September 5 - 23, 2012

Vancouver, BC:  I loved JERSEY BOYS. In fact, I actually have tickets to see the show again later this week.

Well what can I say? As a teen in the early sixties, living near the southern tip of Africa far from Newark, New Jersey, I and my friends used to dance to the music of The Four Seasons, along with that of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. And with the aerobic capacity of youth, we sang along loudly as we danced. Even now, the words of "Sherry", "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like a Man" echo in my mind and and wow -  the memories  they evoke! And talk about muscle memory.  As I listened to the music my body was just itching to get up and dance. Especially when they performed "Can't Take my Eyes off You" with its sexy rumba timing. Fortunately mind over muscle kept me sedately in my seat.

Stationary: A Recession Era Musical
Directed by Laura McLean
Written by  Christine Quintana
Music and Music Direction by Mishelle Cuttler
Rap Lyrics by Brad Cochrane
Presented by Delinquent Theatre as part of the Neanderthal Arts festival
The Cultch

Vancouver, BC. This "recession-era" musical may be about doom and gloom in Lotus-land but as long as there is a plethora of smart, talented and energetic theatre artists and fledgling companies creating shows like Stationary, there is no need for doom and gloom about the Vancouver theatre scene.

Titanic –A New Musical
Story and Book  by Peter Stone
Music and Lyrics by Maury Yeston
Director/choreographer Max Reimer
Musical Director Kevin Michael Cripps
Theatre Under the Stars
Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park
Until August 18th, 2012

Vancouver, BC: For an avid ballroom dance cruiser who has set sail, so to speak, on 2 ocean liners and several large and small cruise ships in the past three years, a musical about an "unsinkable" ocean liner that actually sinks could be deemed an odd choice for entertainment, especially just before boarding another ship as I will do in a weeks or so.  But previously, before leaving on a Cunard cruise round the British isles, I had read  quite a bit about the Titanic, and a visit to the Titanic Museum in Halifax on another dance cruise later that year ago was also a fascinating but sobering experience. Perhaps partly because of that, for me the emotional impact of this TUTS production was quite intense.

This Theatre Under the Stars production of Titanic - A New Musical is different from TUTS more usual style of musical theatre but under the direction of Max Reimer, it is definitely one of the best shows that I have seen there.  Obviously the subject matter does not lend itself to lots of upbeat song and dance musical numbers, but there were many moments of humour, and the singing, both individual and in the ensemble pieces was excellent.

The audience of course, unlike the passengers and crew who are full of excited anticipation on stage, knows from the first minute that these characters and this marvelous ship are doomed. Despite every minute of emotional angst that derives from the powerful impact of this dramatic irony (and I was almost moved to tears in several parts) the show is entertaining and is definitely well worth seeing.

Meg Roe,Laara Sadiq, Ming Hudson, Rachel Aberle, Sarah Donald. Photo by David Cooper.The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood,
Directed by Vanessa Porteous,
Arts Club Theatre Company
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
Oct 20 to Nov 20, 2011

Vancouver, BC: I loved the tag-line for this show - The Untold Story of the Original Desperate Housewife".  But do not let this mislead you into thinking this is in any way a television style comedy-drama. The Penelopiad is an exquisitely narrated re-imagining of Homer's Odyssey, from the perspective of Penelope, faithful wife of Odysseus, who waited twenty years for him to return from fighting the Trojan War.

Originally written as a novella by Atwood and then adapted for the stage, the play is structured with two basic elements. The first is the narrative thread recounted by Penelope (Meg Roe) from Hades where she is haunted by the shades of her slave girls who were murdered by her son Telemachus  at  the behest of the finally returned Odysseus. 

Dean Paul Gibson and Sabina Allemann. Photo: Trudie Lee.Tosca Cafe
Created and staged by Carey Perlhoff and Val Caniparoli
Répétiteur: Nancy Dickson
A Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company/ Theatre Calgary presentation of
the American Conservatory Theater of San Francisco production.
Vancouver Playhouse
Oct 8 to 29, 2011

Vancouver, BC: There was magic in the air on opening night at the Vancouver Playhouse when music, movement and theatre came together in a show that made me want to dance but also brought tears to my eyes.

Nol Simonse, Peter Anderson, Dean Paul Gibson. Photo: Trudie Lee.The story of the bartender at the Tosca Cafe is told, in the  main, wordlessly through movement, look or gesture, and it is so perfectly done that you can follow every scenario as if there were a spoken text.

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