Theatre Seen

Except In the Unlikely Event of War
by Sean Devine
Directed by Richard Wolfe
Pi Theatre and Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre
Roundhouse Performance Centre
Nov 15 - 30, 2013 
Vancouver, BC: The world premiere of Sean Devine's play, Except in the Unlikely Event of  War, is currently running at the Roundhouse Performance Centre. I saw a matinee performance of this new work, and I loved it. It is clever, complex, comedic and confusing on so many levels, that it held my focused attention throughout. Yet despite the fact that I was riveted to the action on stage, the meta-theatrical playing with time and place had my mind whirling to try to keep up with what was real,  and what was the play within the play. I was accompanied at the show by an intelligent and intellectual friend who spends much of his days reading and thinking analytically about a range of complex subjects.  Yet as we tried to dissect what we had seen over a pleasant Italian  dinner at Yaletown L'Antipasto, it was evident that he too was more confused than not. So why, you may ask, did I enjoy it so much?

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.

Mary Poppins:  A Musical based on the stories of PL Travers and the Walt Disney Film
Original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Book by Julian Fellowes
New songs, music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drew
Directed by Bill Millerd
Musical Director  Bruce Kellet
Choreographer Valerie Easton
Arts Club Theatre Company
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
Nov 7, 2013 to Jan 5, 2014

Vancouver, BC:  If I were to pick my number one musical guaranteed to light up the holiday season it would be Mary Poppins. Who could fail to love  P.L. Travers Practically Perfect Nanny who makes a magical world out of the ordinary, everyday events of life? Add a song list that charms everyone from the youngest child who can say Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,  to his granny who loves the joyful precision of Step In Time and the sweet poignancy of  Feed the Birds, and it's a show for all ages to enjoy.

I applaud the Arts Club for this ambitious undertaking. The technical demands of this production were impressive. The collapsing kitchen table and cabinet shelves, magically restored by Mary Poppins, worked flawlessly, and Mary Poppins soared across the theatre as if she really did it all the time. The production is a visual treat with Alison Green's beautifully designed and executed backdrops, highlighted with rain, lightning and flying flocks of birds, courtesy of Craig Alfredson's projections. The backdrop of the rooftops of London was stunningly beautiful and my favorite part of the scenic design.

On this Black Sea journey on the MV Aegean Odyssey, the big treat of the stop in Odessa, Ukraine was a private ballet performance by the State Academical Opera and Ballet Theatre for the travelers of the MV Aegean Odyssey, at the Odessa National Opera House. The two-part show consisted of a classical ballet – Les Sylphides (Chopiniana) and The Carmen Suite, a ballet set to a modern adaptation of Bizet’s music.

Les Sylphides is described as a short non-narrative ballet choreographed by Michael Fokine  to music of Frederic Chopin. It premiered in St. Petersburg in 1908 as Chopiniana or Reverie Romantique: Ballet sur la musique de Chopin. In 1909, named Les Sylphides it was first presented at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris. For this production, the backdrop of the stage was black with a white circle depicting the forest glade where white–clad sylphs dance with the poet in the moonlight.

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.

Legally Blonde: The Musical
Music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin
Book by Heather Hach
Directed and choreographed by Valerie Easton
Musical Direction by Danny Balkwill
Theatre Under the Stars
Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park
Playing alternate nights until August 17th, 2013

Vancouver, BC: It was another perfect night at Malkin Bowl in Vancouver. The sky was clear, the temperature hovered around 20ºC and I didn't even need a jacket. We Vancouverites, who have sat through cold and rainy summer nights in Stanley Park, prayed to the weather fairies that these glorious days and nights would last till September, and sat back to revel in musical theatre in the park.

As for Legally Blonde: the Musical, developed from the 2001 film which in turn was based on Amanda Brown's novel Legally Blonde, - I enjoyed it so much I hope to find a time to bring my grand-daughter (California blonde of course) to see it when she comes to visit. 

 

The plot follows the journey of Elle Woods (Breanne Arrigo), blonde fashionista President of the UCLA Delta Nu, to Harvard Law School in pursuit of her ambitious preppy boyfriend, Warner (Peter Cumins) who had dumped her for the more "serious" and well-connected Vivienne (Andrea Bailey). Bringing her unique style into the classroom, Elle runs into the feared Professor Callahan (Warren Kimmel) and the supercilious attitudes of her ambitious classmates.

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