January 2009

Vancouver, BC:  What a treat to see a play that is bitingly clever, features strong, clearly drawn female characters, is consistent in its visual appeal and provides really great entertainment. Until now my exposure to the work of Maugham was decades ago and limited to his novels. I read Of Human Bondage, his major semi- autobiographical novel and a heavy  read, in my medical student days and The Moon and Sixpence shortly after that. So the humour and witty dialogue in this play came as a delightful surprise. 

Vancouver, BC: As part of my obsessive nature, a trait I am still unsuccessfully trying to remedy, I tend to arrive at appointments,  airports and of course  theatre venues,  far earlier than is necessary. Usually when I get to the Waterfront Theatre for a show, I can mosey into the bar area and stand around chatting to the staff or an occasional fellow early arriver for quite a while before the place starts filling up. But not lthis time. A good forty minutes before the start time for Ronnie Burkett's show,  the lineup to get into the theatre was snaking around the bar area, doubling and redoubling. Hmmm.

Vancouver, BC: If I could chose one opera as the ideal forum to introduce an opera neophyte to the genre it would be Carmen. It has to rank as one of the most accessible operas in that you don't have to have  a sophisticated understanding of music to be entranced as one glorious melody follows another. You also don't have to suspend your sense of reality as the story is  plausible and the motivation of the main characters quite believable.  Who can blame Don Jose (David Pomeroy) for throwing away his military career and ditching the sweet, faithful Micaëla (Mariateresa Magisano) for the seductive, exotic and utterly bewitching Carmen (Rinat Shaham)? And given the choice between the flamboyant celebrated matador, Escamillo (Daniel Okulitch) and the poor sucker Don Jose whom she has already conquered, well obviously Carmen will want to use her witching ways to snare Escamillo.

Vancouver, BC: I have been trying to figure out why I was having so much difficulty committing my thoughts to screen with respect to this production. I was certainly blown away by the performances of all three actors and my attention did not wander for a second from the stage. It  was a very powerful bit of theatre. Yet I hesitated so long in writing about this play that it has become a commentary on me rather than a review.

We wanted to check out the Paradise river raft and set off along a sand path winding through more luxuriant jungle vegetation. En route to the river we stopped off in the huge greenhouse where they cultivate a variety of orchids and other exotic plants. The pictures say it all.

Xcaret (which means small inlet in Mayan) was once an important port for the Yucatan Peninsula and also served as a Mayan ceremonial centre. Today it has been developed into an aquatic recreational park where you can float down underground rivers, swim and snorkel in pools and lagoons, and see turtles, dolphins and even sharks up close and personal. While one can drive to the park and just pay the admission fee, from the hotels it makes sense to sign up for one of the tours which gets you ground transportation in an air conditioned bus and admission to the park.  For US$110 we took the XCaret Plus package which also includes a buffet lunch at one of the many restaurants, a locker, snorkeling gear and a towel.

We still have not figured out how it happened but we were chatting around 10:45 when the Brio Spa called to tell us we had missed appointments for massages. How do three compulsive detail oriented individuals do that? We were all completely bamboozled and somehow had 2 pm in our heads instead of 10 am. We are feeling very stupid and also deprived as we were anticipating getting our stiff muscles kneaded and stretched.

Amanda and I hit the gym first thing so we felt thoroughly virtuous as we took a cab into Playa del Carmen to stock up on food for breakfast and lunch. Our unit has nice kitchen facilities so our general plan is to eat breakfast and lunch in our unit and go out for dinner. The taxi in to Playa is a flat 195 pesos. The drivers are happy to wait while you shop and then drive you back. I guess it’s a guaranteed fare for them so it’s worth it.

The Mayan Palace and Grand Mayan  Resort is one of a sequence of hotels and resorts that line the Caribbean Sea along the eastern coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula. The resort is  south of Cancun  near Playa del Carmen. In the five years since I last stayed here the resort has changed a lot.  It is roughly divided into two areas, the Mayan Palace and Grand Mayan, with a new section of ultra luxury suites called the Luxe, to come next year. As well as the mega pool  I remember from my last visit they have added two really nice pool areas that are restricted to Grand Mayan members and guests.