Vancouver theatre review

Lois Anderson, Luisa Jojic, Ryan Beil. Photo by David BlueAs You Like It by William Shakespeare
Directed by David Mackay
Bard on the Beach,
Bard Mainstage, Vanier Park,
June 2 to Sept 24, 2011

Vancouver, BC: Bard on the Beach opens its 2011 season with As You Like it - and like it I did, a lot. Though I have always preferred watching the intense drama of Shakespeare's tragedies to the whimsical frolics of mistaken identities and gender bending of his comedies, I really enjoyed this production.

Kirsty Provan, Holly Pillsbury, Kyla Ferrier, Stephanie Elgersma and others. Photo by Ron ReedThe Great Divorce
adapted by George Drance and Magis Theatre
from the novel by C.S. Lewis
Directed by Kyle Rideout
Pacific Theatre
May 20 - June 18, 2011

Vancouver, BC:  On my last visit to New York one of the plays I saw was The Screwtape Letters, adapted by Jeffrey Fiske from the epistolary novel by C.S. Lewis.  The letters are written by Screwtape, Satan's chief demon to his hapless nephew, Wormwood, advising him on how best to tempt humans to sin. I was enthralled by  the charismatic and dominating Screwtape, amazed at the sinuous contortions of his demonic assistant Toadpipe, and the whole experience was devilishly wicked, funny and at all times entertaining.

The Great Divorce, originally published in serial form in a religious journal, was a complementary novella to Lewis's Screwtape Letters. I was therefore quite excited to see that Pacific Theatre was staging an adaptation of this book and hoped for a similarly entertaining show.

Jennie Neumann in Hairspray. Photo by David CooperHairspray
Music by Marc Shaiman
Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
Book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Directed by Bill Millerd
Musical Director - Ken Cormier
Choreographer - Valerie  Easton
Arts Club Theatre Company
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
May 7 - July 10, 2011

Vancouver, BC: There is a bumper crop of fresh talent lighting up the stage at the Stanley Theatre, joining Arts Club musical regulars, Matt Palmer, Cailin Stadnyk  and Anna Kuman in a sparkling production of Hairspray.

MacHomer
Created and Performed by Rick Miller
Directed by Sean Lynch
Designed by Beth Kates
Wyrd Productions
Vancouver Playhouse
May 11-15, 2011

Vancouver, BC: Unlike reviewers in the international press I don't have smart writers coming up with headlines for my stories but  I could not resist the challenge in the MacHomer program where 12 of their favorite MacHomer headlines are listed. Since I loved the Vancouver show - and it is now closed.... well d'oh!

According to Rick Miller, MacHomer is "essentially a tribute to the creative vision of Matt Groening (creator of The Simpsons) and the genius of William Shakespeare".

But it is also a hilarious and entertaining vehicle to showcase the vocal genius and on-stage charisma that Rick Miller has in spades.

From its casual origin in 1994 as a sketch for a MacBeth cast party, MacHomer in various incarnations, has toured  worldwide intermittently over 13 years, but somehow I missed seeing it until it came to Vancouver last week for a short run at the Vancouver Playhouse.

Andrew Laurenson and chorus. Photo by Michael SiderBEUTFL PRBLMS - a collectively devised production written by and performed by Andrew Laurenson, with Lesley Ewen, Billy Marchenski and Emelia Symington Fedy.
Director/dramaturge Paul Ternes
Radix Theatre Society
The Roundhouse Community Centre
May 13 to 21, 2011

Vancouver, BC:  The premise of this new work - Garry Kasparov's loss of a chess series to a computer - sounded intriguing. I was eager to see the way in which Laurenson and his collaborators would create a spellbinding story from this event. In May 1997, chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov, world champion for twelve years running, took on the challenge of beating IBM's Deep Blue Supercomputer. Of the 6 games played, Kasparov won the first game, Deep Blue the second, three were played to a draw and the final game was won by Deep Blue. Had technology triumphed over humanity? Well not really. Since Deep Blue was designed and programmed by a team of 5 IBM scientists and one International Grandmaster, it would be more fair to say that one man was beaten by a collective.

Camille Mitchell as Mrs. Robinson. Photo by David CooperThe Graduate - adapted for stage by Terry Johnson
based on the novel by Charles Webb
and the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry
Directed by Lois Anderson,
Granville Island Stage,
Arts Club Theatre Company,
Apr 14- May 14 , 2011

Vancouver, BC:  It is always an interesting anticipation when one  looks at an adaptation of a work in one genre into another form, whether book to film, film to musical or film to play. It becomes even more of an interest when the new work is adapted from an iconic original. 

Matt Palmer  as Will Rogers with the Ziegfeld Girls. Photo by Tim MathesonThe Will Rogers Follies 'A Life in Revue'
Book: Peter Stone  Music: Cy Coleman
Lyrics: Betty Comden and Adolf Green
Directed and choreographed by Valerie Easton
Musical Director James Bryson
A Royal City  Musical Theatre production
Massey Theatre
Apr 7 - 24, 2011

Vancouver, BC: The  Royal City Musical Theatre's production of The Will Rogers Follies is an entertainment packed spectacle with a gorgeously costumed ensemble of sparkling young singers and dancers supporting the principal cast of Matt Palmer (Will Rogers), Sara-Jeanne Hosie (Betty Blake), Tyson Coady (Clem Rogers), Laura McNaught (Ziegfeld's favorite) and Dimitrios Stephanoy (Wiley Post).

It is somewhat embarrassing for me to admit that in all the time I have lived in Vancouver I have never been out to the Massey Theatre nor seen one of the Royal City Musical Theatre productions until now. But last night I finally made it out to New Westminster to see the The Will Rogers Follies and I will definitely be watching out for their future productions.

Nicola Lipman in Another Home Invasion. Photo by Trudie LeeAnother Home Invasion by Joan MacLeod
Directed by Richard Rose
A Tarragon Theatre production
Arts Club Theatre Company Revue Stage
Mar 31 - Apr 23, 2011

Vancouver, BC: Take a finely tuned script with not a wasted word, a "there but for the grace of God" story, and a performer who completely embodies her character - and you have a show that grabs its audience and does not let go for a full 70 minutes.

Nicola Lipman is Jean, a feisty senior, who is worn out by anxiety about her beloved husband, who is increasingly showing signs of dementia. She is willing to move out of their family home and into a care home and her heart is set on the local Kiwanis facility which has rooms for couples. But she and her husband have been on a wait list for two and a half  years and now he needs more supportive care.  Will they be separated, or have to be relocated, heaven forbid, to Abbotsford?

Aaron Hursh and Ryan Beil. Photo by Karen McNeeThe Pillowman by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Stephen Drover
A Wild Geese Equity Co-op Production
Jericho Arts Centre
Feb 19 to Mar 6, 2011
Wed through Sun at 8 PM

Vancouver, BC:  I freely confess - uncoerced by any implement of torture - that I probably viewed  the Wild Geese Co-op production of The Pillowman through a different lens than most of their audiences will be using.

The Pillowman was the subject of my final term paper in a course on Modern British Drama and as an obsessively over-achieving mature student, I assiduously mined the text for every subtlety and nuance I could find. My  issues were around authorial voice, whether "scriptor" or reader gives meaning to text,  Death of the Author (concretized in McDonagh's script) ... and other such academic ideas.

Kevin K. James, Tom McBeath, Bob Frazer. Photo by Emily Cooper.Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Directed by John Cooper
Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company
Vancouver Playhouse
Feb 12 to Mar 5, 2011

Vancouver, BC: If the dream of a young male actor is to play Hamlet, then Willy Loman would be the dream role for a theatre veteran.

In what must be one of the virtuoso performances of his career, Tom McBeath does not merely play Willy Loman. He is Willy Loman; a sad, pathetic, bone-weary 63 year old road salesman, who can no longer distinguish between the incomprehensible real world he inhabits, and the fantasy world he has built in his own mind. As Loman flashed back and forth between reality and and his dream world,  there was not a micro-second in which McBeath did not carry me with him, often causing an errant tear to leak onto my  cheeks. 

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