Theatre Seen

iceland_sm_lindsey_angell-w500-h500.jpgICELAND
by Nicolas Billon
Directed by Kathleen Duborg
A Dirt Road/The Iceland Equity Co-oP Production
Studio 16, West 7th.
Till May 3, 2014

Vancouver, BC: It was a packed house last night for the closing performance of Nicolas Billon’s Iceland at Studio 16, and deservedly so. Iceland is a gem of a theatrical piece and it was sensitively directed and beautifully performed by Kathy Duborg and her cast of three.
Iceland is one of three plays that make up the trilogy published as “Fault Lines” that won Billon the 2013 Governor  General’s Literary Award for Drama. The other two plays are Greenland and Faroe Islands.

glory_wdp5478-w500-h500.jpgWatching Glory Die
Written and performed by Judith Thompson
Directed by Ken Gass
Canadian Rep Theatre
Historic Theatre at The Cultch
 April 23 to May 3rd, 2014.

Vancouver, BC:  A fourteen year old girl sent to juvenile detention for throwing an apple at a postman was incarcerated for five years until she ultimately asphyxiated herself in her cell while being watched by on duty correctional officers. The correctional officers were "following orders not to intervene until she stopped breathing." It is hard to believe that this tragic and horrific real-life story could happen in a country like Canada. Four months ago, almost 7 years after the death of Ashley Smith, an inquest jury found that her death was a homicide - in other words that the actions of others contributed to her death. No criminal or civil liability was assessed through the inquest but recommendations were made to prevent such future tragedies. 

Playwright Judith Thompson chose to tell this sad and perplexing story through the perspectives of three representative characters. Glory is the troubled 19 year old girl who has spent 5 years, much of it in "therapeutic  quiet" or isolation, in institutions of Corrections Canada. Rose is Glory's adoptive mother, who raised her from a 5 day old infant, and who, towards the end was kept away from Glory by the Corrections system. Gail represents the correctional officers or prison guards. A rough working-class woman, she is fearful of losing her job, follows orders not her conscience and is clearly not trained nor qualified to be responsible for the type of self-destructive  prisoner that Glory has become.  In this premiere production of Watching Glory Die, Thompson herself bravely returns to the stage after 35 years, to play all three roles.

annie139a0997-w500-h500.jpgAnnie
Book by Thomas Meehan, Music by Charles Strouse, Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Directed and Choreographed by Valerie Easton
Musical Direction by James Bryson
Royal City Musical Theatre
Massey Theatre
April 10 to 26, 2014

Vancouver, BC: I am an unabashed fan of Annie, the spunky, independent little optimist, and ANNIE has one of my favorite feel-good musical songs, Tomorrow. Valerie Easton and her large cast and crew have put on a polished and entertaining production and I enjoyed every minute of it.  

annie139a0741-w500-h500.jpg

annie139a1368-w500-h500-w500-h500.jpgTwelve-year old Julia MacLean played Annie with poise and confidence, belting out her numbers with the clarity of a seasoned performer. The entire orphan girl ensemble was impressive and well rehearsed. Their dancing was precise and their diction great, so you could clearly hear the words of their songs. Little Jaime MacLean who played Molly is an 8 year old with an amazing stage presence. Tiny as she is I found my eyes drawn to her among the group of orphans.

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.

night-1_humancargo_chrisgallow-w500-h500.jpgNight
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. 

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