As I See It

kayvon_kelly_-_persephone_theatre_2013-2-w700-h700.jpgChelsea Hotel: The Songs of Leonard Cohen
Conceived and directed by Tracey Power
Musical Direction and Arrangements by Steven Charles
Firehall Arts Centre
Till March 29 th, 2014

Vancouver, BC: Wow! I really enjoyed this show. The multi-talented cast of Rachel Aberle, Lauren Bowler, Ben Elliott, Steve Charles, Marlene Ginader and Kayvon Kelly have strong  voices and great moves. I missed the premiere of Chelsea Hotel in 2012 so this was a completely fresh production for me and I was thoroughly captivated.


floyd_dress_0375-w700-h700.jpgFloyd Collins
Music and lyrics by Adam Guettel
Book and additional lyrics by Tina Landau
Directed and choreographed by Peter Jorgenson

floyd_dress_0570-w700-h700.jpgVancouver, BC:     Long time readers of ReviewFromTheHouse may remember my stories of having to overcome my sometimes incapacitating claustrophobia to undergo magnetic resonance imaging  (Claustrophia and your MRI) and to stay calm on being trapped in a New York elevator.  What  I have never disclosed is that my first experience of severe claustrophobia occurred as a child, crawling through a confined tunnel like Floyd Collins, but in the Cango Cave system near Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape of South Africa. Like the caves of Central Kentucky, the Cango Caves are an extensive system of cave and tunnels formed in the ancient limestone strata in the foothills of the Swartberg (Black Mountain).

Merely reading about the horrific  end of the real Floyd Collins, trapped in a space eight inches high, evoked the same terrifying sense of suffocation and panic that has stayed with me since that long-ago nightmare. Even though, while watching the story unfold,  my rational self acknowledged that these were actors on stage, and the "dark cave system and confined space" where Floyd Collins (Daren Herbert) was "trapped" was a construct of Amir Ofek's clever representational set and Jeff Harrison's somber lighting, this sense of unease coloured my entire experience of this dark work.


p1130458-w500-h206.jpgDer Besuch der Alten Damen (The Visit of the Old Lady): Das Musical
Based on the play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Book by Christian Struppeck
Music by Moritz Schneider and Michael Read
Lyrics by Wolfgang Hofer
Director Andreas  Gergen
Choreography by Simon Eichenberger

p1130732-w500-h206.jpgWanting to experience local theatre, I was concerned that the language barrier might be a problem but thought it would be less so for a musical. As it turned out at the Ronacher the production had English surtitles but even without these translations, this production woud have blown me away. I had seen a production of Swiss playwright  Friederich Dürrenmatt’s 1956 play Der Besuch der Alten Damen  years ago and been struck by the power of the story.  Add a new powerful music score, sharp choreography danced with impeccable precision by the ensemble, some lyrical songs with powerful acting, and the impact of the story is magnified many times over.

p1130410-w500-h206.jpgAs I studied the web-sites and brochures listing the myriad cultural events that were taking place in Vienna during the week that I would be there, I had to keep reminding myself that the reason I was going to Vienna was to join the Waltz Week in Vienna group for a week-long dance camp and to have the experience of waltzing at one of the fabulous Viennese Balls. The well-planned schedule for Waltz Week allowed for time to explore the city in between dance activities and I figured that I would wait till I got to Vienna, to decide what I wanted to do.

geas3d-w500-h500.jpgThe Original Grease
Book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Directed by Peter Jorgensen
Musical Direction by Courtnay Ennis
Choreography by Kayla Dunbar
Studio 58, Langara
Playing till February 23, 2014

Vancouver , BC:  Loved the show -  this Grease is energizing, galvanizing,  electrifying! 

grease2-w500-h500.jpgA non-stop, high voltage, entertaining production. I'm addicted to dance and my passion for dancing that started with rock and roll in my teen years continues till this day. Watching the student ensemble jive and gyrate though Kayla Dunbar's exuberant choreography, I could hardly keep my feet from tapping through the show

grease1-w500-h500.jpg  This is not  the Grease of the iconic 1978 film with John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and Stockard Channing but the original Grease, which premiered in Chicago in 1971 as a play about students at a fictional high school in a working class neighbourhood. After Jacobs and Casey were asked to develop it into more of a musical,  it opened in New York in 1972 as a musical and was well received, being nominated for 7 Tony Awards.

It was interesting to have the opportunity to see the roots of what evolved into a highly successful Broadway production and film, and to realise that most of my favorite musical numbers were already present from the earliest musical version.

Written and directed by Christopher Morris
A Human Cargo production at PuSh Festival 2014
The Roundhouse
Jan 24-26, 2014

Vancouver, BC:  The events of Night that take place over 24 hours of polar darkness, are precipitated by the unexpected arrival in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, of Daniella (Linnea Swan) a cultural anthropologist who works at the museum in Toronto.
Prompted by a letter she received, purportedly from a young girl Piuyuq (Tiffany Ayaluk) asking about her grandfather, Daniella decides to repatriate the bones of the grandfather to his family - his son (Jonathan Fisher) and grand-daughter. Daniella's arrival awakens old traumas in Piuyuq's father, and Piuyuq's best friend, Gloria (Reneltta Arluk), the real writer of the letter sees that her desire to help her friend has unintended bad consequences.

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.



Uncle Vanya  by Anton Chekhov
Translated by Peter Petro and edited for performance by Errol Durbach and John Wright
Directed by John Wright

Blackbird Theatre Company
The Cultch Historic Theatre

until Jan 18 th 2014.

Vancouver, BC:  It's a grey, damp, rainy early morning in Vancouver.As I look out toward the ominous grey clouds over the skyline of the buildings across the waters of False Creek, I see small patches of blue sky peaking through and it reminds me of the faint note of hope on which Uncle Vanya ends.

As I have written before, on reading Chekhov, I have always struggled with the angst and depression of his characters (Playing Uncle Vanya: A Chat with Anthony Ingram) but after visiting the dacha in Crimea where he wrote The Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard (Black Sea Cruise: Yalta, Anton Chekhov), I resolved that this would be the year when I finally figure out why his plays are so revered. Happily I think this production has done that for me.

Becky Shaw  by Gina Gionfriddo
directed by David Mackay,
Studio 16
, 1555 West 7th Ave
Mitch and Murray Productions
Nov 20th - Dec 7th, 2013

Vancouver BC:  Right now the theatrical cornucopia of Vancouver is overflowing with an abundance of riches in the way of excellent productions . Mitch and Murray Production's Becky Shaw, is another example of fine theatre produced by a small independent company, with a interesting script,  tight direction and  first-class acting.

The black box space at Studio 16 was set up in a configuration that I have not seen before in this space.  The seats were arranged in a sort of hexagonal formation, with three playing spaces in the centre- used as a bedroom, sitting rooms,  a coffee shop, for the four locations of the scenes; New York, Boston, Providence and Richmond. I had always thought of this theatre as smallish but this in-the-round ( or in-the- hexagonal) seating revealed how surprisingly spacious this space actually is.

Gina Gionfriddo is an American playwright who has also written television episodes for shows such as Law and Order.  Becky Shaw, which garnered her a nomination for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for drama, tips  a hat to William Thackeray's Vanity Fair. Like Thackeray's ambitious heroine Becky Sharp, Gionfriddo's Becky (Moya O'Connell) is a disturbing intruder into the already uneasy relationships of Suzanna (Meghan Gardiner), her dominating mother, Susan (Marilyn Norry), her new husband  Andrew (Charlie Gallant) and her "adopted" brother, Max (Aaron Craven).


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