Theatre Seen

Meg Roe,Laara Sadiq, Ming Hudson, Rachel Aberle, Sarah Donald. Photo by David Cooper.The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood,
Directed by Vanessa Porteous,
Arts Club Theatre Company
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
Oct 20 to Nov 20, 2011

Vancouver, BC: I loved the tag-line for this show - The Untold Story of the Original Desperate Housewife".  But do not let this mislead you into thinking this is in any way a television style comedy-drama. The Penelopiad is an exquisitely narrated re-imagining of Homer's Odyssey, from the perspective of Penelope, faithful wife of Odysseus, who waited twenty years for him to return from fighting the Trojan War.

Originally written as a novella by Atwood and then adapted for the stage, the play is structured with two basic elements. The first is the narrative thread recounted by Penelope (Meg Roe) from Hades where she is haunted by the shades of her slave girls who were murdered by her son Telemachus  at  the behest of the finally returned Odysseus. 

Dean Paul Gibson and Sabina Allemann. Photo: Trudie Lee.Tosca Cafe
Created and staged by Carey Perlhoff and Val Caniparoli
Répétiteur: Nancy Dickson
A Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company/ Theatre Calgary presentation of
the American Conservatory Theater of San Francisco production.
Vancouver Playhouse
Oct 8 to 29, 2011

Vancouver, BC: There was magic in the air on opening night at the Vancouver Playhouse when music, movement and theatre came together in a show that made me want to dance but also brought tears to my eyes.

Nol Simonse, Peter Anderson, Dean Paul Gibson. Photo: Trudie Lee.The story of the bartender at the Tosca Cafe is told, in the  main, wordlessly through movement, look or gesture, and it is so perfectly done that you can follow every scenario as if there were a spoken text.

Matthew Coulson, Sarah Jane  Pelzer and Elliott Loran  relaxing between showsThe Vancouver run of Ride the Cyclone is coming to an end with a final performance at 8 PM tonight. Then it is off to Whitehorse  and then Toronto from November 10 to December 3 for this group of talented performers in this year's run-away hit. I heard that several of the Toronto performances have already sold out so I sent E-nudges to theatre buddies in Toronto to make sure they get their tickets early.

Bursting with curiosity to learn more than I read in the program and from the ridethecyclonemusical  website I met with three of the group in between shows to learn a bit more about them. Sarah Jane Pelzer who plays Jane Doe,  auditioned for the first workshop over three years ago and has been in the show ever since. Without white makeup and those dark scleral lenses, she is lovely, and totally alive! Elliott Loran who plays Ricky Potts, and the unforgettable Space Age Bachelor Man joined after the first workshop was held. He is as energetic and enthusiastic as Ricky is introverted, and delightful to interview.

Ryan Mooney as the wily PseudolusA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Book by Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Cathy Wilmot
Music Director Sarah Jaysmith
Choreographer  Dawn Ewen
Fighting Chance Productions
Jericho Arts Centre
Oct 4 - 22, 2011

Peter Stainton as Sennex with the courtesansVancouver, BC: What happens when that ancient Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus meets twentieth century playwrights Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove,  figuratively of course? You get Pseudolus (the play) turned into A funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, where stock characters (young lovers, obstructionary old man, clever slave) play out slapstick comedy with storylines borrowed from ancient Greek theatre.

The cast of Ride the Cyclone. Photo by Fairen BerchardRide The Cyclone
Book by Jacob Richmond
Lyrics and music: Brooke Maxwell & Jacob Richmond
Atomic Vaudeville
Revue Stage, Granville Island
Sept 28 to Oct 15, 2011

Vancouver, BC: Wow! That was the erudite word that popped into my head a few moments after this show started and when it ended 90 minutes later the "wow" was still there, even more so.

Sarah Jane Pelzer as Jane Doe. Photo by Feiran BerchardSo ride your bike, car, take a bus or ferry or walk down to Granville Island and catch this show before it closes here next week to head up to Whitehorse for a run.

Jennica Grienke, Agnes Tong, Stephanie Moroz, Andrea Houssin: Photo by David CooperThe Crucible  by Arthur Miller
Directed by Jane Heyman
Studio 58 at Langara College
Sept 29 to Oct 16, 2011.

Vancouver, BC:  "The play's the thing!" and Arthur Miller's play written almost 60 years ago has not lost one iota of its power to captivate. The Crucible is set in Salem village, Massachusetts in 1692, notorious for the witch trials resulting in nineteen people hanging for supposedly being witches. Miller's play premiered on Broadway in 1952, five years after the House Committee for Un-American Activities had begun an investigation into communist influence in the Hollywood movie industry.  Several hundred actors, directors and screen writers accused by this committee were blacklisted and their lives and careers ruined. The Crucible serves an allegorical function, the religious hysteria of seventeenth century Massachusetts stands in for the anti-communist hysteria of the 20th century. Both forces  were driven by rabid believers who forced innocent people into the moral dilemma of false confessions or naming names of associates, to save their own lives.

Emma Middleton, Scott Button, Jordan Kerbs Top: Alex Pangburn. Photo by Tim MathesonThe Trial of Judith K by Sally Clark
Directed by Tom Scholte
Theatre UBC
Frederick Wood Theatre,
Sept 29 to Oct 8, 2011 - shows at 7:30 PM

Vancouver, BC: Black Comedy? Absurdist theatre? Whatever genre this play falls into, "The Trial of Judith K" would be a difficult script for even a professional company to pull off well and this student production did not entirely succeed in doing so. Without a copy of the script in front of me I am also finding this hard to write about, since other than Jordan Kerbs who plays the title role, each of the other cast members play at least three separate characters (twenty in total) and it's hard to keep them straight in my mind. But here goes.

Anita Wittenberg, Donna White, Brian Linds, Emilee-Juliette Glyn-Jones, Alex Diakun. Photo by David Cooper.Circle  Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker
Directed by Nicola Cavendish
Granville Island Stage,
Arts Club Theatre Company,
Sept 22 to Oct 22,2011

Vancouver, BC:  The best aspect of this production for me was the way David Roberts' set design and Ted Roberts' lighting came together to create a realistic setting of a typical studio space in a school or community centre. At first we see only a opaque, reflecting rear wall of the studio up stage but back lighting reveals a corridor with more rooms opening off the far side.  I really liked this effect - it transported me back to some of the weird and wonderful classes I took at local community centres.

Samantha Hill & Adrian Marchuk; Photo by David CooperLight in the Piazza
Music and lyrics by Adam Guettel
Book by Craig Lucas
Direction and musical staging by Peter Jorgenson
Musical Director Sean Bayntun
Patrick Street Productions
Annette and Norman Rothstein Theatre
Sept 15 to  Oct 9th, 2011

Vancouver, BC: In musing about my response to the show, I finally concluded that I really admired the production but was a little disappointed in the work itself. So what on earth do I mean by that? In brief, the production values from cast, musicians and the creative/technical teams were excellent but I just could not connect with the music.

Samantha Hill & Adrian marchuk. Photo by Ross den OtterI guess for me contemporary show music is a bit like drinking an ultra-dry Alsace style Gewürtztraminer or Riesling versus one from the Mosel or Rheingau. Both may be exceptional quality but I enjoy the latter far more. Having read previous critical raves about Guettel's music I was hoping, and I think, expecting, the melodic music of the old style musicals, from which tunes continue to play in my head long after I have left the theatre. Instead, as several of us agreed, we enjoyed the orchestral music and admired the ability of the cast to sing those intricate songs but the songs were not memorable, at least to our musically unsophisticated ears.

It was down to the last three Fringe performances that I could fit into my insanely crowded schedule, and the day was grey and rainy. Did I really want to take the ferry across to Granville Island and stand in lineups in the rain?  Luckily the skies cleared and by the time I needed to leave it was dry and quite pleasant.  I packed my umbrella into my knapsack and set off to the ferry dock for a quick ride over to the island, and was really glad I did. I had been looking forward to hearing Melanie Gall sing Piaf since I heard her sing while I waited in line-ups for the earlier shows, and she did not disappoint me. The Sparrow and The Mouse is my favorite show of the selection of 8 plays I managed to see in this year's Fringe.

For my other Fringe Festival Reviews check out

Vancouver Fringe Festival 2011 Part I

Vancouver Fringe Festival 2011 Part II

But first at the False Creek Gym I saw "Suicide(s) in Vegas, staged by members of the Seoul City Improv group who have been touring across Canada since June.

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