Theatre Seen

On my way back, gazing skyward to admire some of the buildings, I heard an urgent "pardon, mademoiselle". Delighted at the "mademoiselle" bit, rather than madame – well, people have been saying I look years younger since I retired – I stopped abruptly, just in time to avoid a huge pile of something I did not want to step in. After thanking the men for the warning, I kept my eyes on the ground on the way back to the hotel.

Apart from the occasional gastrointestinal doggie gifts, and the rather larger ones from the horses pulling the carriages near the square, the streets were remarkably clean.  But even more remarkable was the relative absence of cigarette smoke that had previously made visits to Quebec so unpleasant. Perhaps it was that I was in a very touristy area, but overall there was very little smoking.  A pleasant surprise.

by James Fagan Tait
Directed by Sherry Yoon
Squamish Reserve #6, under the Burrard Street Bridge B
oca del Lupo
August 10 - 25

Vancouver, BC: Viewed from the sandy, stone-strewn ground below the Burrard Street Bridge, the weathered concrete columns and supporting arches of the 75 year old bridge look as ancient as Notre Dame de Paris, the Gothic cathedral around which Victor Hugo centered his novel. The rumble of cars crossing overhead, punctuated by the occasional roar of motorbikes, did not suppress the excited buzz of the crowd, waiting for the start of Boca del Lupo's latest outdoor, roving spectacular, Quasimodo.


Book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Directed by Lalainia Lindbjerg Strelau
Music Director James Bryson
Alternate nights till August 18th at Malkin Bowl
Theatre Under the Stars

Vancouver, BC. Well this BC summer day drifted into early evening with a gust of wind cooling the air. I was back at Malkin Bowl to see "Grease," hoping that I could keep my toes from a-tapping, my knees from a-knockin and not get up to dance by the light of the moon. Oh wait, that's from another song.


Cookin' at the Cookery
Written and directed by Marion J.Caffey
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
August 2 to 26
Arts Club Theatre Company

After weeks away in the dry heat of California and then the cooler, thin-air mountains of Colorado, I am back in the saddle, or rather, the theatre seat again, for the remount opening night of Cookin' at the Cookery. And what a ride it was tonight. Under the direction of Bill Sample (keyboard), musicians Graham Boyle (percussion), David Sinclair (Guitar) and Rene Worst (Bass) produced swinging rhythms that I swear called out to me "get dancing, girl". But being a well trained theatre patron, I kept my hands and feet from tapping out the beat and my mouth from belting out the words. It was a struggle. But I loved the show.

by Richard Rodgers (Music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (Book and Lyrics)
Directed by Shel Piercy Music Director Wendy Bross Stuart
Alternate nights till August 17th at Malkin Bowl

Oh what a beautiful evening, oh what a wonderful night. I love Oklahoma - the musical that is, as Oklahoma is one of the nineteen US states I have yet to visit. It's not that I've been swallowing happy pills but I just love musicals and this one is jam packed with tunes that make me wish I had the singing and dancing talent to be up there on stage having as much fun as the enthusiastic young cast seem to have. Add a mild dry Vancouver night after the threatened rain shower spattered by in the early afternoon, an appreciative audience with families and lots of young people and a great venue in Stanley Park - what could be more quintessential Vancouver than that?

"The Taming of the Shrew" by William Shakespeare
Directed by Miles Potter.
Vanier Park Mainstage
Till September 23rd 2007
Bard on the Beach

What a great start to the 2007 season at Bard on the Beach. Last night's opening of "The Taming of the Shrew" definitely ranks among the best productions I have seen at Bard. It's not just that Bob Frazer's Petruchio, even dressed in a grungy wedding cape, could turn the most committed feminist into a simpering romantic. Nor his commanding initial entrance as the "Lone Stranger," come to "wive it wealthily" in Padua City. Those jeans!  Katharine (Colleen Wheeler) clearly did not stand a chance of resisting him.

Although feminists have long decried The Taming of the Shrew as misogynistic, I have always read "Shrew" as one of Shakespeare's most interesting love stories; a battle between two smart, strong-willed adversaries. The key of course is how Katharina's "taming" is interpreted. And Wheeler's Katharina was as close to my ideal of the role as I could have hoped for.  


Julius Caesar
Directed by Katrina Dunn
Studio Stage Vanier Park
To September 21st, 2007
Bard on the Beach

Vancouver, BC. I really enjoyed this performance of Julius Caesar, directed by Katrina Dunn, on the Studio stage at Bard on the Beach. Or more correctly, I should say I thought the first half had some of the most powerful performances I have seen in a while. It always seems to me that the high point of the play is the powerful funeral oration by Mark Antony while the second half of the play, armies clashing and men falling on their swords, comes somewhat as an anti-climax after the earlier dramatic scenes of betrayal and the power of rhetoric.

The play centers on the plotting, carrying out and aftermath of the assassination of Julius Caesar. Despite the eponymous title,Caesar is killed off early in the third act and the focus settles on Brutus, an "honorable man" who "did love Caesar when [he] struck him," and Mark Antony, whose masterful oratory and Iago-like manipulation shifts the mood of the populace against the conspirators.

The Shape of Things
by Neil Labute
Directed by Sabrina Evertt
Waterfront Theatre
August 22 – September 1
Twenty Something Theatre

Vancouver, BC: Take two seemingly unrelated questions - what moral values lead to destructive human relationships? And what aesthetic values define art? - combine through the unforgiving pen of playwright/ director, Neil Labute, and you get the edgy disturbing play, The Shape of Things, that previewed last night at the Waterfront Theatre, on Granville Island.

The setting for the play is a liberal arts college in a Midwestern town. Evelyn (Julie McIsaac) is an art student working on her thesis for her MFA degree. Adam (Joel Sturrock) is a shy, awkward, English literature student, working as a part-time security guard at a local museum jobs to get by. They meet when Evelyn, attractive and aggressive, challenges Joel to stop her from defacing one of the exhibits. This encounter leads to an affair during which Evelyn becomes the dominant figure in Adam's world, reshaping his person, his attire and his friendships. Phillip (Jon Lachlan Stuart) is Adam's ex-roommate, now engaged to Jenny (Lisa Aasebo). Jenny harbors an unexpressed attraction for Adam. Over time, Evelyn's machinations alienate Adam from Phillip and Jenny, and destroying their relationship as well.

Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by George Furth
Directed by Bill Millerd
Music direction - Bruce Kellett
Choreography - Valerie Easton
Stanley Industrial Alliance stage
September 13-Oct 14, 2007
Arts Club Theatre Company

Vancouver, BC: Among my CD collection of Broadway musicals, one of my favorites is the original London cast recording of "Company". However I had never seen "Company" performed so it was with great anticipation that I headed off to the Stanley for opening night of the show. And the production lived up to my expectations thanks to a terrific, high energy cast, who sang Sondheim's clever, acerbic lyrics so clearly that I could hear and savour every word. Well, almost every word except for the thousand word a minute "Getting Married Today" brilliantly performed by Tracy Neff.

This musical first opened on Broadway in 1970, but Sondheim's observations and acerbic commentary on married life bite as sharply as they did almost 40 years ago. The storyline loosely revolves around Robert (Bob, Bobby, Robbo), (Matt Palmer) a 35 year old New Yorker who can't seem to commit to a steady relationship, never mind actually get married. But not to worry, because he is never at a loss for company with his good friends, 5 married couples who want to marry him off. Hmmm... Then where will they get a man for the extra place at their dinner parties? Bobby also is April, (Cailin Stadnyk), Kathy (Debbie Timuss) and Marta (Alison MacDonald).

Vancouver, BC. "The evil that men do lives after them." For me the standout show at this year's Vancouver International Fringe Festival was "Timekeepers" from Ocean of Sugar Productions, Tel-Aviv, Israel. A well crafted, beautifully performed 70 minute drama, it moved me to tears at several points. Set in Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Nazi Germany, Timekeepers tells the story of three men whose lives intersect at a point in time when men in a supposedly cultured and civilized country committed unspeakable acts of evil against other human beings. Benjamin is an elderly, Jewish horologist from Berlin. He has survived so far through his skill at repairing watches, but does not know the fate of his wife and his young son and daughter. He wears the yellow star that brands him as a Jew. Benjamin is a conservative family man. Hans is a young German homosexual, who has been deserted by his lover who managed to get out of Germany. Hans wears the pink triangle that brands him as a homosexual, another group targeted by the Nazis. Thanks to a new lover with some influence in the camp and lying about his skill as a watch repairer, Hans is assigned to work in the repair shop alongside Benjamin. The third man is a Kapo, a brute who terrorizes the other two men while they remain under his control. He wears the green triangle that brands him as a criminal.


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