Vancouver theatre review

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. 

Lauren Bowler, Shawn Macdonald, Meghan Gardiner, Greg Armstrong-Morris. Photo by Fabrice Grover[Title of show]
Music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen
Book by Hunter Bell
Directed by Mike McKenzie
Musical Director - Stewart Yu
Choreography by Sara-Jean Hosie and Shane Snow
A Homeshark Equity Co-op productioins
Granville Island Revue Stage
Feb 15 to 26th, 2011

Vancouver, BC: Calling a show [title of show] is cute but a touch risky for sales  I would think.  I confess that when I first saw the email notifying me about the opening of the show I suspected it was spam and almost deleted it before curiosity made me open the email. I'm glad I did.

Shawn MacDonald and Greg Armstrong-Morris. Photo by Fabrice GroverThe talented and energetic ensemble staging this musical on the Revue Stage produced an excellent evening of entertainment fun and I thoroughly recommend it.

Giovanni Mocibob as Asher. Photo by Tim Matheson.My Name is Asher Lev
Adapted by Aaron Posner from the novel by Chaim Potok.
A Pacific Theatre production
Pacific Theatre,
Jan 38 to Feb 26, 2011

Vancouver, BC: Pacific Theatre has done it again, giving us another little gem of a play.  Adapted by Aaron Posner from the eponymous novel by Chaim Potok, My Name is Asher Lev portrays a gifted young artist who is compelled to follow his creative passion even though it ultimately means exile from his family and the community in which he grew up.

The cast of three, directed with a nuanced sensitivity by Morris Ertman, features Giovanni Mocibob as Asher,  while Nathan Schmidt and Katharine Venour play several male and female characters. Schmidt plays Asher's father Aryeh Lev, Asher's artistic mentor and teacher Jacob Kahn, Asher's uncle Yaakov and The Rebbe, leader of the Hassidic Community.  Venour plays Asher's mother Rivkeh,  Anna the art gallery owner  who shows Jacob's and Asher's work, and a artist's model.

Hugh Hughes. Photo by Jamie Gramston.Floating
Created and Performed by Hugh Hughes and Sioned Rowlands
A Hoipolloi production at the PuSh Festival
Arts Club Theatre Revue Stage
January 20 to Feb 5, 2011

Vancouver, BC: I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when Shôn Dale-Jones first "met" emerging Welsh artist Hugh Hughes. Quick witted, charming, engaging storyteller - the dialogue must have been scintillating. But since it would have been more telepathic than aural, probably even the fly could not have tuned in to witness the birth of their first show, Floating.

ASioned Rowlands. Photo by Jamie Gramstonnyway it is the amiable Hugh Hughes, Dale-Jones' alter ego,  who comes forward to greet the audience and introduce his grandmother, played by the winsome Sioned Rowlands. Rowlands also appears as other characters, such as  the crusty  Mr. Morgan, and Hugh's friend.

Front: Claire Hesselgrave Back L-R: Sarah Goodwill, Andrew Cohen, Joanna Williams, David Kaye. Photo by Tim MathesonDead Man's Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Chris McGregor,
Telus Studio Theatre
A Theatre at UBC production
January 20 to 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Vancouver, BC: What a clever concept for a play - answering a dead man's cell phone and getting drawn into his world. Let's face it - who does not get annoyed when a loudly ringing cell phone disturbs your quiet meal? And if the jerk who owns the phone just lets it ring , and ring, and ring? Well it's enough to make you go ballistic.

Todd Thomson, Megan Follows, Dmitry Chepovetsky, Fabrice Grover and Karen Holness. Photo by David CooperThis by Melissa James Gibson
Directed by Amiel Gladstone
Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company
Vancouver Playhouse
January 8-29, 2011

Vancouver, BC:  Under the able direction of Amiel Gladstone, with a luminous Megan Follows leading an accomplished cast of actors, Melissa James Gibson's  This sparkles with humour while touching on the internal angsts and troubled relationships of this group of thirty-something friends.

 Jane (Megan Follows), published poet, teacher and mother, is raising her child alone, after the death of her husband a year earlier. She is visiting her friends Marrell (Karen Holness) and Tom (Todd Thomson), the exhausted parents of an infant who only "sleeps in 15 minute increments".

Ky Scott, Alex Rose, Carlos Rodriguez, Caitlin McCarthy. Photo by David CooperThe Secret in the Wings by Mary Zimmerman
Directed by Mike Stack
Music composition and direction by Kevin McNulty
Studio 58, Langara College
Nov 18 to Dec 5, 2010

This show may not have made it onto your theatre-going radar but I highly recommend that you head on over to Studio 58 at Langara College to see The Secret in the Wings. Everything about this production and especially the perfectly paced direction and the outstanding ensemble work is first class. It's definitely top of my current "do not miss" list of shows.

Valerie Mason-John

Rachel Scott: Guest Reviewer

Brown Girl in the Ring
Performer/Playwright: Valerie Mason-John
Director: Linette Smith
Presented by Queenie Productions
at the Vancouver Fringe Festival

Guest review by Rachel Scott

I love the idea of this play: what happens with the black baby descendent of the royal British family suddenly crops up? Inspired by the African-German queen who married George III and the rumors of a black baby offspring to Louis XIV, “Brown Girl in the Ring” has all the makings of a wild ride and hilarious satire.

Bart Anderson and Eric McCormack. Phot by Emily CooperGlengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet
Directed by Michael Shamata
Arts Club Theatre Company
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
July 22 to August 22, 2010

Vancouver, BC.  Drifting through the Stanley Theatre lobby at intermission, I  was struck by the unusual number of men engaged in lively and animated discussion about the events of the first act. There seems to be something about this Mamet piece (other than that it features an all-male ensemble), that makes it resonate more strongly than most productions with male audience members.  Maybe its the sense of watching a war-zone where only the strong and ruthless will survive, that makes it so much a man's play.

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