Theatre Seen

Lori Watt and Lisa Dery, Photo by Wendy D.The Odd Couple by Neil Simon
Directed by David C. Jones
A Frolicking Divas Production
Jericho Arts Centre
March 8 to 17, 2012

Vancouver, BC: With Vancouver's theatre community reeling from the news that the Vancouver Playhouse Company is closing its doors, some light entertainment is sorely needed. Vancouver is rich in ambitious, new independent theatre companies and one such group, The Folicking Divas, has brought the female version of Simon's Odd Couple to the Jericho stage.

The Female Odd Couple, a version written by Simon for a female cast  some twenty years after his1965  original Broadway hit, features Olive Madison (Lisa Dery), an unapologetically sloppy, non-cooking independent gal and Florence Ungar (Lori Watt), an obsessive, housekeeping type, whose joy in life is to elimate any speck of dust and produce healthy home-cooked meals. When Olive lets the newly separated Florence move into her Riverside Drive apartment, it is anything but a "marriage made in heaven."

Poster at the Booth TheaterOther Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz,
Directed by Joe Mantello,
A Lincoln Center Theater production,
Booth Theatre, 225 West 45th St, NY
Jan 25th, 2012

New York, NY: This play was the fifth production I saw in my New-York-one-week-seven-play marathon. Amidst some really great theatre, this was the show that I found the most compelling. The story was gripping and the characters were fully developed and utterly believable.

Although I enjoy all the varied theatrical genres, my favorite form of play is one with a strong dramatic script where stakes are high and the arc of evolution of the characters is meaningful. I thus found it especially interesting to compare the emotional impact of the two dramas I saw back to back, namely Seminar and Other Desert Cities. Both plays dealt, albeit from different perspectives, with the way the creative act of writing and the written product, book or story, impacts both writer and reader. Both plays had first class acting and great production values, set, lighting, costumes etc but of the two plays, only Other Desert Cities had the "wow" factor for me; getting me right in the guts. I think the difference lies in the scripts.

Wall poster for Bob at New York Live ArtsBob
Conceived and directed by Anne Bogart
Created and performed by Will Bond,
Text adapted by Jocelyn Clark
SITI Company,
Bessie Schonberg Theatre at New York Live Arts
Jan 19 to 29, 2012

New York, NY: Inspired by the work of avant-garde theatre director, Robert Wilson, Bob is a homage to a man whose career in the theatre pushed the boundaries of performance though movement and manipulation of space and time. Commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, after it premiered  in February 1998,  the show moved to New York in April 1998, where it garnered Obies for both Lighting and Sound Design. In honor of Wilson's 70th birthday in 2011, SITI brought the show back to the stage for a limited run at New York Live Arts.

Although I had heard much about the teaching of SITI Company, their summer intensive programs, and their workshops in Viewpoints and Suzuki training, I had not until now had the opportunity to see a SITI production. So when I realized that Bob was on during the week I was in New York, I leapt at the opportunity to get tickets. I loved the show and watching Bond's elegantly controlled performance gave me a visceral understanding of the creative process in a way that I could not get from merely reading about it.

The program for SeminarSeminar by Theresa Rebeck,
Directed by Sam Gold,
101 Productions,Ltd..,
Golden Theatre,
January 24th, 2012

New York, NY: I had seven time slots to see theatre during my week in New York, and so many tantalizing possibilities to chose from. Seminar was one of my first choices, both for the subject matter, namely a workshop for young aspiring writers, and for the rare opportunity to see Alan Rickman on stage. Rickman and the other four cast members performed superbly, the on-stage energy and chemistry of the ensemble was remarkable and the design aspects were as excellent as I would expect of a Broadway production.

Yet I did not have a "wow - I really  want to see this again" response to this play and I left feeling vaguely disappointed. The next day I saw a matinee performance of Other Desert Cities and this helped clarify what for me was missing in Seminar.  I think the fundamental problem lies in the script which lacks tension and and is populated by shallow, facile characters.

audience mask from Sleep No MoreSleep No More
Directed by Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle
Designed by Barrett, Livi Vaughan and Beatrice Minns
Choreography by Doyle
Sound Design by Steven Dobbie
Lighting Design by Barrett and Euan Maybank
Costume Design by David Israel Reynoso
An Emursive and Punchdrunk production
McKittrick Hotel, New York
Held over till March, 2012

One of the hottest theatre tickets in town is the audience immersive experience, Sleep No More. Sleep No More is the creation of Punchdrunk, a British dance Company who originated the show in London in 2003, bringing it to Boston and then to New York.  Loosely, very loosely, based on Macbeth, with elements of film noir and Rebecca thrown in, it is physical theatre set in "found space." in this case the setting is the abandoned McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea. The audience, each person wearing a mask, and bound to keep silent at all times follows actors around as the various stories unfold. Its New York run has been extended several times and is currently set to run to March 24th, 2012.

We arrived for our 7 PM time slot on a freezing cold night.  We lined up on the snow covered pavement outside the entrance to the old McKittrick Hotel. To quote from the Sleep No More website "Completed in 1939, the McKittrick Hotel was intended to be New York City's finest and most decadent luxury hotel of its time. Six weeks before opening, and two days after the outbreak of World War II, the legendary hotel was condemned and left locked, permanently sealed from the public. Until now..."  Tantalizing - because nowhere could I find any details about the building as a hotel and why the hotel was condemned.

Clara and soldiers from the 2010 Goh Ballet Nutcracker. The Nutcracker,
A Goh Ballet Production
Choreographer Anna-Marie Holmes
Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Vancouver Opera Orchestra
Conducted by Leslie Dala
The Centre for  Performing Arts
Dec 15 to 18, 2011

Vancouver, BC: The Nutcracker has been a Christmas tradition for ballet companies all over the world for many years.  I remember way back as a child in Cape Town, being enthralled by the music and the fantastic visions on stage. That was an early event that led to my lifelong love of dance. Vancouver's Goh Ballet has established a tradition of its own with this year's show being the third  production of this version of the ballet. It has been a while since I have seen The Nutcracker, but it has lost none of its charm for me.  This production sparkled and I loved every minute of it.

The Relativity scenarioMath Out Loud
Written and directed by Mackenzie Gray
with additional material by Roger Kemp
Producers  Dale Hartleben and Roger Kemp
Choreography Joel Sturrock
Music  by Mackenzie Gray, Joe Docherty,  Sayer Roberts.
Frederick Wood Theatre, UBC
Dec 14, 2011

Vancouver, BC. Lining the wall alongside the staircase in the house where my kids grew up were prints by M. C. Escher, a Dutch graphic artist whose drawings of infinite staircases, morphing shapes and distorted geometry are instantly recognizable.

Adam Charles, John Mann, Terra C. MacLeod, and Shane Snow.  Photo by David Cooper.Blood Brothers
Book, Music and Lyrics by Willy Russell,
Directed by Bob Frazer and Sara-Jeanne Hosie
Musical director Sasha Niechoda
Arts Club Theatre Company
Granville Island Stage
to Dec 31st, 2011

Vancouver, BC:  Five years ago I saw a London West End production of Blood Brothers (Blood Brothers - a Heartbreaker). It is one of the shows that has stuck in my memory for its evocative staging ... and the story. Over the years, I have read numerous twin studies which looked at  "nature versus nurture"  through examining long term outcomes when twins are separated at birth. In Blood Brothers,  Russell imagines such a situation where one twin is brought up in poverty and the other in affluence, with fatal consequences for both.

Vitaly ''magics'" green leavesLast night a group of friends and I drove over to the Culture Lab at the Cultch to see Vitaly Beckman perform his show of amazing illusions.   I first saw Sensation of Magic over a year ago at the Havana Theatre on Commercial Drive. At the time I was completely blown away by what I saw and could not stop puzzling over how this disarmingly youthful performer  works his magic.

Since this was my second time seeing his show I figured I could watch really really carefully and see what he does. Then by a twist of fate (ha! superstition) or just my slow reflexes , I ending up holding a "life preserver" that was being tossed round- and found myself on the hot seat.   Or rather the hot "X marks the spot on the floor." 

Sampler CD from the original Broadway cast The national tour of Jersey Boys will explode onto the Vancouver scene in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre  in September 2012. Somehow I missed seeing Jersey Boys in New York, London and Toronto, so I was excited to hear about this upcoming show.

I grew up in an era when a musicologist might say that rock-n-roll was supposedly past its peak. Elvis was off in the army and  Buddy Holly and Richie Valens had died in a plane crash.

But far away at the southern tip of Africa, no one had told us teenagers that rock 'n roll was dead. Every weekend a group of us gathered  in the large garage that had been converted into a rec-room and we danced the afternoons away.

We did not need drugs to fly high as kites. We didn't drink and we didn't smoke.  We were not concerned with fashion fads or fast cars. All that mattered was how good a dancer you were and how much fun you had dancing. We "twisted" and "rock 'n' roll'-ed but our favorite dance style was "bop", which I think has evolved into today's  East Coast jive. And as my regular readers know, I have never lost my addiction to dance.

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