Theatre Seen

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.

The Cast of Asymmetry. Photo courtesy of realitycurve theatre.Asymmetry by Rick Robinson
Directed by Stuart Aikins,
A Reality Curve Theatre Production
Havana Theatre
October 25 - 30, 2011

Vancouver, BC: I was procrastinating by reading Facebook posts instead of getting on with my writing, when I happened to see a Theatre at UBC post with a link to an Urban Rush interview video of Stuart Aikins and Jerry Wassermann talking about the play Asymmetry. This is a first play production for Reality Curve Theatre.

It was on at the Havana Theatre and amazingly my calendar had a clear night, so a friend and I headed out to the Havana to see the play.  I like the intimacy of the space there but unless they do something about the seats, it is going to be a long time before I go there again. They are so uncomfortable it's death on the back! But I digress.

Asymmetry: Three couples, three stories.  They use the same playing space, enter and exit through the same doors but their stories are independent and they do not interact at all.

West Side Story
Music by Leonard Bernstein
At the dance. Photo by Tim MathesonLyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Arthur Laurents
Based on a concept by Jerome Robbins
Directed by Ken Cazan
Conducted by Leslie Dala
Choreographer Tracey Flye

Vancouver, BC:  Only an opera purist would fuss about whether West Side Story is opera or musical theatre. I remember a similar controversy when VO did Porgy and Bess by George and Ira Gershwin more than a decade ago yet most of the patrons loved that show too.

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. 

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