Theatre Seen

Three Tall Women
By Edward Albee
directed by Terence Kelly
PAL Studio Theatre (581 Cardero St.)
Oct 23 to Nov 9, 2014

Vancouver, BC: I really liked this show; this is a play you do not want to miss. Albee's intriguingly crafted work is sensitively interpreted by the cast of Anna Hagan, Beatrice Zeilinger, Meaghan Chenosky and Matt Reznek.

When Three Tall Women premiered in 1994 off Broadway, it garnered for Albee the Pulitzer Award for Drama, the Drama Critics Circle Award for best play and the Outer Critics Circle award for best off-Broadway play, among many other accolades.  Interestingly I was not expecting to like it as much as I did. When I thought back to the 95/96 Vancouver production, the first time I saw this play, I remembered thinking at the time that it was a whole lot of talking and there was not much going on. This time,  being 20 years more "mature" and with two more decades of life experiences behind me, I understood, and was caught up in, just how much was in fact "going on" in this play.

img_6624-w500-h500.jpgDarling, A Musical
Music and Lyrics  by Ryan Scott Oliver;  Book by Brett Ryback
Directed and choreographed by Dawn Ewen
Musical direction by Steven Greenfield
Springboard Theatre Production
Renegade Production Studios, 125 East 2nd St., Vancouver
October 8 to 18th, 2014

Vurs-w500-h500.jpgancouver, BC: Many of Vancouver's successful independent theatre companies were started by the entrepreneurship of new grads or young actors to provide a vehicle through which they could practice their craft of theatre and gain practical  experience in performance, technical or production aspects. Springboard Theatre was founded a year ago by Capilano University Musical Theatre Program grads, Michelle Bardach, Kayla Heyblom and Katie Purych with the objective of putting on a musical that was youthful and provocative, and had not been done before in Vancouver. The musical they selected was Darling, the Musical written by Ryan Scott Oliver and  Brett Ryback in 2009.

Set in 1929 Boston just before the Great Crash, Darling gives a gritty, down-and-dirty twist to Barrie's tale of Peter Pan, Wendy Darling and the Lost Boys.

My Rabbi
my_rabbi_-_kayvon_kelly_joel_bernbaum_image_derek_ford_2-1-w500-h500.jpgWritten and performed by Kayvon Kelly and Joel Bernbaum
Directed by Julie McIsaac
A Sum Theatre Production.
Firehall Arts Centre,
Oct 7 to 18, 2014

Vancouver, BC: Two boys, Arya (Kayvon Kelly) and Jacob (Joel Bernbaum)  growing up in Saskatoon, meet at fifteen and become close friends; as close as brothers. Arya's family are Iranian Muslims.  Jacob's family is Jewish. Neither boy is devout, and the family's religious differences play no part in affecting their friendship. At times of stress such as parental illness, they are there for each other.
They grow up and Jacob moves to New York to become a rabbi while Arya goes to Iran to learn about his origins. They keep in touch by letter for a while...
The play opens with Arya, now a devout Muslim,  and Jacob, now a Rabbi in Toronto, each at prayer. A chance encounter in a Toronto street reunites them. But the bombing of buses and cafes in Israel is being echoed by the bombing of synagogues in Toronto. Can this bond of friendship between Muslim and Jew endure through religious, philosophical and  political differences?

The 2014 Vancouver Fringe Festival opened on Thursday Sept 4th. This event features 91 artists in more than 800 performances of over 80 shows in 11 days on Granville Island in theatre spaces and other odd sites as well as various off-island venues such as The Cultch, Studio 16, Havana and the Firehall.

One of the great aspects of the Fringe Festival is that it draws in a broad spectrum of the community, from the committed year round theatre-goer to people just checking out theatre for the first time. In one line-up I chatted to a high school girl who wants to be an actor and her friend who had never been to see a play; a senior who volunteers at just about every play and festival that she can and another senior who has season tickets to theatre, opera and the symphony. I met people who have come to Vancouver specifically for the Fringe Festival and others who discovered accidentally while exploring Granville Island, that they could catch a couple of plays. I met a lady who lives in England but visits Vancouver every  year to visit Fringe.

The second important aspect of the Fringe is that it offers something for everyone, whether you like comedy, drama, musicals, solo performers or ensembles, and reviews simply reflect the individual biases of the reviewer so see for yourself.

Here is the listing and links in sequence of the shows I have seen so far.

I really enjoyed all five of these shows, each performed by a solo actor.

 ...didn't see that coming
written and performed by Beverley Elliott
directed by Kerry Sandomirsky
musical direction by Bill Costin
Happy Good Things Productions
Performance Works, Granville Island
Remaining Shows:
Wed Sep 10 9:25 PM
Fri Sep 12 10:30 PM
Sun Sep 14 7:50 PM

A consummate professional, Beverley Elliott had her audience in the palm of her hand from the minute she walked out on to the stage.  Singing and narrating her autobiographical journey, she had me chuckling through her on-line dating 40 plus dates at the food court in the Brentwood Mall, her revelation that there was another life outside small-town Presbyterian Ontario and gigs in gay bars. Loved her show.

The Unfortunate Ruth
written and performed by Tara Travis
directed by Jim Travis
dramaturgy by Kathleen Flaherty
Sticky Fingers Productions
Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island
Remaining shows:
Wed Sep 10 9:30 PM
Fri Sep 12  5:15 PM
Sat Sep 13  4.00 PM.

The Unfortunate Ruth was developed with the support of Vancouver's Playwrights Theatre Centre. This play received the 2014 playwrights Theatre Centre and Fringe New Play prize and after seeing this show, I agree this award was well deserved. The Unfortunate Ruth was one of my favourite plays so far at this year's Fringe. In this play Travis presents a fascinating look at two alternate universes and the way one can chose to view the world.

I should preface these two reviews by saying I am more into drama and big themes than comedy, and shows that have other people rolling in the aisles don't usually make me chuckle. However, I liked both these crazy comedic shows shows although I enjoyed one much more than the other.

No Tweed Too Tight: Another Grant Canyon Mystery
written and performed by Ryan Gladstone
Monster Theatre
Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island

Remaining shows:
Mon Sep 8. 6:45 PM
Thu Sep 11 8:40 PM
Sat Sep 13 7:50 PM

The Masks of Oscar Wilde
by Shaul Ezer with C.E. Gatchalian
Dramaturged and directed by Amanda Lockitch
Matchmaker Productions in association with the frank theatre company
Revue Stage, Granville Island
Remaining shows:
Mon Sept 8  9:15 PM
Fri Sept 12 10:30 PM
Sun Sept 14 6:45 PM

Oscar Wilde, master of the epigram, might well have agreed that like Shakespeare’s great fallen hero, Othello, he had “loved not wisely but too well.” Wilde's affair with the young Lord Alfred Douglas led to his ultimate destruction  and the negation of all the fame and admiration his talent had achieved.

 

Greenland
by Nicolas Billon
Directed by Kathleen Duborg
A TigerMilk Collective Production
The Master at Granville Island
Remaining Shows:
Sept 8 - 14 at 8 PM and 9:30 PM

Earlier this year I saw Iceland by Nicolas Billon, also directed by Kathleen Duborg.  Iceland is one of the three plays that make up Billon’s award-winning trilogy published as “Fault Lines”, and in my review at the time I called Iceland a “gem of a theatrical piece.”

When I noted that Greenland, a second play of the trilogy, was being staged at the Fringe Fest and intriguingly, aboard the SS Master, a wooden hulled steam powered tug boat moored at Granville Island, this play moved to the top of my list of "to sees". As performed here, Greenland consists of three monologues centering around the deteriorating family relationships of Jonathan (Billy Marchenski),  a glaciologist who has discovered and named a new island off the coast of Greenland, his wife Judith (Lindsay Drummond) and their niece/adopted daughter, Tanya (Kirsten Sleming).

audra-w500-h500.jpgLady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
by Lanie Robertson
Directed by Lonny Price
Circle in the Square Theatre
1633 Broadway (cross Street 50th)

aupluspiano-w500-h500.jpgNew York, NY:  In an interesting thematic confluence of  New York productions, there are three shows concurrently running that focus biographically on the lives of three music legends. On my Spring New York stopover I saw Satchmo at the Waldorf, a drama about the late great jazz trumpeter and singer, Louis Armstrong set at the time of his final performances at the Waldorf Hotel in New York.

On this trip, I have just seen Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, that traces the evolution of the musical career of King, still a vibrant and active singer, pianist and songwriter who has written more than 400 song.

Continuing the music theme of my theater picks for New York 2014,  Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill stars the luminous Audra McDonald as tragic jazz great Billie Holliday, who died of cirrhosis at the too-young age of 44 .

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