Review From The Seat

Do any of you do cryptic crossword puzzles? My favourite Saturday morning ritual after my early morning walk, is to sit down with a mug of dark roast coffee and cream and tackle the cryptic crossword by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon.  

It took consistency and discipline for me to reach my health, weight loss and fitness goals by adopting a ketogenic nutrition program coupled with caloric restriction through time-restricted fasting.  After my severe sciatic episode and spinal surgery, I had  gained 40 lbs. It took 8 years of yoyo dieting and exercising to lose 10 lbs, a year of semi-low carbohydrate eating to lose the next 10 lbs, and less than a year of  ketogenic nutrition and intermittent fasting to drop the last 20 lbs of fat. 

I loved seeing this celebration of female friendship and maternal love on Valentine’s Day. This holiday was instituted over 1500 years ago as a religious celebration to honour the martyrdom of St. Valentine. But today it has become a Hallmark holiday for couples to signify their love for each other through exchange of Valentine cards and gifts. At this time in contemporary society, when almost half of North American adults live alone or are single, and surveys show that one in three experience loneliness, it Is valuable to acknowledge the value of other positive social relationships as well as romantic love. Steel Magnolias does that.

Vancouver, BC: As I listened to Debra Sparrow, Musqueam weaver and preserver of first Nation’s history, welcome us with eloquence and humor to the territory of the Coast Salish peoples, I couldn’t help reflecting on the fact that most of those in the theatre had probably came from anywhere but here. For some, home is where they came from. Others don’t look back and home is where they are.  

Time suddenly became of paramount importance for me when out of town travel and a January snow storm converged to almost cause me to miss seeing this play.  Having followed Hannah Moscovitch's work since I first saw East of Berlin and the double bill of The Russian Play and Mexico City, a decade ago I was curious to see how she could create an engaging work about a physicist studying the nature of time.  As an aside, one of my sons is a theoretical physicist, excellent at explaining abstract concepts yet the only part of his PhD thesis I understood was the dedication.

Body Awareness by Annie Baker
Directed by Aaron Craven 

Vancouver, BC:  Don't miss this little gem of a one act comedy. A gently mocking script, strong performances by an evenly matched cast and an elegant set make for an engaging show. 

Dancing Lessons By Mark St. Germain,  Directed by Sarah Rodgers for Naked Goddess Productions 

Vancouver, BC.  With my long time professional interest in developmental neurodiversity and my later discovered passion for dance, the premise underlying Dancing Lessons grabbed my attention. Two people want to dance, yet for very different reasons, they cannot. They have vastly different motivations, each has a major obstacle to overcome, both must embrace change if they are to succeed. 

A Thousand Splendid Suns, By Ursula Rani Sarma, Based on the book by Khaled Housseini, Directed by Haysam Kadri

This is a tale of two women, a generation apart, whose lives collide in a country shattered by external forces of war, and ravaged internally by an oppressive ,misogynistic governing culture. Playwright Sarma had an immense task to distill Housseini's epic novel into a two hour drama. Though harrowing with frequent moments of ugly brutality, it was engaging and emotional throughout.

I founded my website 11 years ago to write about theatre, food and wine, ballroom dance and travel. When I started  blogging, theatre reviews were mainly in print form, and few people were taking pictures of their restaurant dishes. How times have changed. When I retired from medical practice to focus on reviewfromthehouse, my writing and the arts, I certainly had no thought that I would ever be writing about medical and scientific research into living and aging well.

Never the Last
Created by Christine Quintana and Molly MacKinnon
Directed by Laura McLean
Choreography by Kayla Dunbar

For lovers of the violin, or for those who appreciate a story of love that survives both adversity and individual triumphs, playwright and actor Christine Quintana and violinist Molly MacKinnon have crafted a musical play  about the 10 year love affair of composer/violinist Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt Gramatté and expressionist painter, Walter Gramatté . The story of their meeting, courtship and marriage is performed by Quintana as Sophie-Carmen and Anton Lipovetsky as Walter Gramatté .  Scenes are woven into and around 10 violin pieces composed by Sophie-Carmen Gramatté .played by MacKinnon.

 

 

The Full Light of Day
by Daniel Brooks
Director/Dramaturg Kim Collier
Dramaturg /VR Filmaker Kevin Kerr

I was a long time subscriber and  financial supporter of the now defunct Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company and an early on-line local theatre reviewer. (Check out Great Mischief from 2006, in the archived posts of this website, Review From The House). I was  saddened by the abrupt demise of the company in 2012, and the resulting absence of an ongoing, regular series of stimulating theatre in the Vancouver Playhouse venue. It was therefore a good feeling to be back at the Vancouver Playhouse, eagerly anticipating the Electric Company’s inaugural production of The Full Light of Day. On the acting front and  technical aspects the production lived up to my expectations. 

 

 

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
Adapted by Ron Reed from C.S.Lewis’s novel
Directed by Sarah Rodgers

I was specially delighted to be able to catch the closing night performance of Pacific Theatre’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, with my  grandchildren who  were visiting from California. My grand-daughter is in the Production and Design Conservatory in the School of Theatre at the  Orange County School of the Arts. The intimate setting of the Pacific Theatre was a perfect place for her to experience how imagination can transform a space with a few set pieces,  an array of rugs, coats, sheets, and subtle lighting changes into  two different worlds, with a host of characters played by only 2 actors.. 

Vancouver: BC. Two years ago I was in New York for a week with my family to hear my granddaughter sing with a youth choir in a program at Carnegie Hall. While they were occupied with rehearsals, I took the opportunity to see a matinee performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Based on Mark Haddon’s extraordinary book, it tells of a singular coming of age event in the life of Christopher Boone,  a young autistic boy.   I remember being blown away by the acting, the extraordinary athleticism of the choreography and by the stunning technicality of that production, telling my kids that this was among the best theatre productions that I had ever seen. But now, two years later what I chiefly remember of the Broadway production is the manifestation of a sensory overloaded mind created by the staccato lighting and videography effects on the black cube set. 

Vancouver, BC:  When Zee Zee Theatre's Artistic Director Cameron Mackenzie and playwright, Dave Deveau, welcomed the opening night audience, they pointed out that this was the 10th Anniversary both of the company, and of the beginning of the script development of My Funny Valentine - a play suggested by the 2008 murder of  a young teenage boy by another male student that he had asked to be his Valentine.

Vancouver, BC: A successful Broadway musical with the entire cast as well as the band made up of teenagers?  Seems an unlikely scenario, and yet that was the situation when 13 opened on Broadway in October of 2008

Vancouver, BC:  Some years ago I was standing at the edge  of the elegant ballroom floor of the Queen Mary II cruise ship, enjoying the vocalist singing with the dance orchestra when out of the blue I felt a overwhelming wave of sadness wash over me and tears welled up.  I had no idea what it was about the refrain he was singing that provoked this emotion. The song was only vaguely familiar. Later that night when I returned to my cabin, and with only the few words of the refrain in my head, I searched the internet for the title of the song.

Vancouver, BC: I read a lot and my literary addiction is to thrillers so I anticipated with spine-tingling enthusiasm, the staging of The Hunger Room, a new play by local playwright and actor, Scott Button. This turned out to be an excellent event to end my 6 month hiatus from theatre reviewing and recharge my enthusiasm for seeing works by the many small independent theatre companies that have sprung up in the Vancouver scene.

Vancouver, BC: The  Laboratory Theatre Group is one of the year-long, pre-professional theatre training programs of Vancouver’s Arts Umbrella. For students aged 13 to 19 the mandate of this program is, over the course of a year, "to create, produce and perform an original theatre piece to tour to Metro Vancouver schools.” The presentation at the Expressions Festival is the culmination of the year-long creation and performance, including the school tours.

On multiple media lists for performance invitations from around North America, it is rare that I find myself in a city on the same night for which I have an invitation. Despite my lifelong love of different forms of dance, both doing and watching, reviewing contemporary dance is way outside my comfort zone.

Vancouver, BC: Twelve Angry Men was first conceived by Reginald Rose in 1954 as a play for television, later adapted for the stage, and then in 1957 made into a film, ranked by the American Film Institute in 2008 as the second best courtroom drama ever made (The number one selection was To Kill a Mocking Bird!). It has been adapted and staged in different formats countless times since - as Twelve Angry Women with an all female cast, and Twelve Angry Jurors - with men and women on the jury panel.

Vancouver, BC: "Does the end justify the means" is a question that has been debated in many different situations but when the context is the crazy Vancouver condominium market it gives this question an intriguing twist.

Vancouver, BC:  Pericles is one of the plays in the Shakespeare canon that has until now not made it to my list of "must read" Shakespeare plays. The first of the four romance or tragicomedic plays of the latter part of Shakespeare's career, (Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest), Pericles introduces the theme of past injuries or injustices that are redeemed through magical or supernatural dramatic devices.

Vancouver, BC:  In my review of the Bard on the Beach 2009 production of Othello, I commented that Othello ranks as number one favorite on my list of Shakespeare's tragedies. Despite some pushback from those who champion Macbeth or Hamlet, I still favor Othello because the complexity of the characters of Iago and Othello leave so much room for interpretation and debate. With a stellar cast on Amir Ofek's intricately tiled stage, enhanced with lighting by John Webber, Mara Gottlieb's distinct costumes, and the directorial theme of the play, this 2016 production was for me as engrossing as the earlier production.

New York Theatre:  I am so happy that I picked this play to see when a time slot opened up on my New York  Week with Kids trip. I see a lot of really good theatre but this production was a standout in every aspect. The script adaptation from Haddon’s novel was very well done, the acting was superb and the technical production aspects stunning.

Vancouver, BC:  Shakespear's tragic tale of young love doomed by outside forces they are powerless to control, is a timeless drama beloved of diverse audiences around the world. The Vancouver rain was pounding on the big tent in Vanier Park as we listened to Artistic Director Christopher Gaze tell us that this pair of star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, will soon take their lives. An interesting choice to have Gaze start the play proper seamlessly from his welcoming statements, and joined for the last lines of the Chorus by the complete ensemble.  As Juliet and Romeo, Hailey Gillis and Andrew Chown, both newcomers to Bard on the Beach, took comand of their roles with a breathy vigor.

Vancouver, BC:  I just spent a delightful couple of hours with a friend at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island watching the students of the  Arts Umbrella Musical Theatre Troupe perform The Drowsy Chaperone. Teens from 13 to 19 enrolled in the year-long Intensive and Pre-Professional  Musical Theatre programs get to showcase their work as in the current 2016 Expressions  Festival. This Festival also features work by the Theatre  Troupes of various ages.

Vancouver, BC:  Although I enjoy almost every form of theatre I most love plays that leave me with an idea or question to mull over on my way home. In Good People there were two words that echoed in my mind as I drove home. The first was choice; the second was perspective.  These two concepts resonated strongly within me partly because  the conflict between the protagonist, Margie (Colleen Wheeler) and her one-time boy friend, Mike (Scott Bellis), perfectly illustrated points made at a workshop on behaviours versus beliefs that I had been at two days earlier. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Planning a theatre visit to London this summer? If so be sure to see Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, playing at Wyndham's Theatre, Charing Cross Road, from June 25 to September 3rd, 2016.  I loved the show when I saw it in New York shortly before it closed in 2014. Audra McDonald is reprising her role as the jazz singer Billie Holliday.

Vancouver, BC: Blackbird Theatre company celebrates its 10th anniversary of producing classical theatre with a sparkling production of The Rivals. From their first production, Schiller's Mary Stuart starring Gabrielle Rose (tonight AKA Mrs. Malaprop), their shows have always maintained a high professional standard with excellent performances and strong technical values and this production continues in that tradition.

Vancouver, BC: There are only three performances left of this excellent production of an Ibsen classic so get out to Jericho Arts Centre and catch an evening performance tonight or tomorrow or a 2 PM matinee (Saturday).  It is beautifully staged, the costumes are gorgeous and the performances uniformly excellent. Nora is a dream role for an actor and Genevieve Fleming does it justice.

Vancouver, BC:  Less than a year after my husband succumbed to cancer,  I saw "Wit", in which Seana Mckenna played Dr. Vivian Bearing, a solitary, career-driven English Professor, undergoing treatment for terminal ovarian cancer. Despite the brittle humour and sardonic wit  which sustained the self-contained Dr. Bearing through several courses of aggressive chemotherapy, the sense of absolute solitariness in which each of us, like her,  will ultimately face death, permeated the play; and I remember that I cried silently throughout the play.

Vancouver, BC: This is the second time I have sat in the darkened Stanley Theatre caught up in the heart-wrenching stories of Les Miserables, and wishing I had used a tear-proof mascara. I loved the Arts Club 2009 production (ReviewFromTheHouse: Les Miserables).

Vancouver, BC. The two theatrical happenings that annually signal summer in Vancouver are the Theatre Under the Stars musicals at Malkin Bowl and  Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival.  This year's musicals are Hairspray and Oliver (which I have still to see). But with this delightful and funny production of Hairspray, TUTS has a definite winner - don't miss it.

Performing to a wildly enthusastic crowd that filled Main Street's Fox Cabaret venue, internationally renowned dancer/choreographer, Vancouver's Joel Hanna, and fellow tap dance artists Danny Nielsen and guest artist Jason Samuels Smith from New York, presented an outstanding evening of dance, music and song. 

Vancouver, BC:  For some reason this production of King Lear sparked an unusual and different emotional reaction in me than I usually experience in response to this play. I thought it was one of the better productions of Lear that I have seen and when intermission came, I couldn't believe that an hour and a half had passed.

Vancouver, BC:  This Arts Club production of Godspell has  everything going for it, to make it a runaway success. The multi-talented ensemble members are strong vibrant singers, lively dancers and play a variety of musical instruments. Director Hosie's  concept of setting this in a railway station afforded set, lighting, projection and sound designers Alan Brodie, Sean Nieuwenhuis and Geoff Hollingshead the opportunity to develop a creative and novel set. I loved the way through projection and sound that they believably replicated split flap arrivals and departures.

Vancouver, BC:  Ironically, sitting in the darkness of the Scotiabank Dance Centre black box performance space watching a metaphorical dance/theatre piece about choices and human values, my mind wandered to pondering the relationship between theatre and dance... and then to thinking about what exactly defines dance. The usual first dictionary definition of the verb "to dance" goes something like "to move rhythmically to music" but clearly since I have seen exquisite dance routines performed with no sound accompaniment, music is not an essential component for the action of dancing. 

Vancouver, BC:  Before I say just how much I liked this fast paced, high energy, steampunk version of The Comedy of Errors, I should declare that I had the unusual pleasure of vicariously experiencing the evolution of this production as my daughter, Amanda, enjoyed the privilege of being Apprentice Director to the ingeniously creative director, Scott Bellis.

Vancouver, BC. While a thunderstorm rages over an isolated log cabin deep in a forest, siblings Bobby and Betty, come together ostensibly to clear out a tenant's property from the cabin. But this is no Hansel and Gretel story of innocent siblings threatened by a mean step-mother and a cannabilistic witch with a fairy tale happy ending. Instead it is a dark exploration of the truth and lies  behind the emotions of an big sister-baby brother relationship, now connecting as adults.

Vancouver, BC: The premise of this show had me hooked from the beginning. It's early 17th century England and theatre abounds. Companies of players are performing comedies and tragedies with meaty roles for the players to tackle - but only if the players are men. Women are not allowed to perform and if they risk it and are caught on stage, they are subject to shaming by the church. This gender-based prohibition does not sit well with Miss Judith Shakespeare (Amanda Lisman) the feisty younger daughter of The Bard.  She gathers together her band of female friends in the basement of  The Cave Tavern and persuades them to rehearse with her to perform a play which she writes.

Vancouver, BC: I was happy to get a chance to see this show as I missed it on each of my New York trips and I really enjoyed it a lot. I liked the musical variety with Latin rhythms, salsa, merengue and rap,  the energy of the salsa and hip-hop dancing. Not so sure about the overall storyline though.

Vancouver, BC: I have always been bemused by the terms "fairy tales" or "children's stories" used to describe the collections of German folk lore compiled in the 19th century by the appropriately named Brother's Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm. Although sanitized and glamourized into gentler, happier and pretty versions  as in the animated Disney films that even young children love to watch, the actual stories tell of violent acts and cruelty that don't always end with the protagonists living "happily ever after."

Vancouver, BC: Who would have thought that a 65 minute play about an imagined conversation between Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis could be as spell-binding as I found this show to be? I was enthralled.

Vancouver, BC:  Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe is a tough, hardboiled, private detective, who operates in the seedy underworld areas of 1940s Los Angeles. First appearing in The Big Sleep, his second appearance as protagonist was in Farewell My Lovely, the novel that is the basis for this adaptation.

Photographer, sculptor, poet, dancer, Tatiana Rivero Sanz, has a solo exhibition of her work - onceuponatimetana -at The Blank Tank Art Gallery, 148 Alexander Street in Gastown.

Vancouver, BC: Everything was Blasted ! The protagonists, the set... and I. Knowing what was about to explode on stage before my eyes, I fortified myself with a pre-show glass of wine but that in no way softened the impact of this play. The anger, fear, acts so violent that I closed my eyes, hit me like the ton of the rubble that fell from the ceiling.  Yet Kane's characters are so appallingly grotesque that mercifully I felt emotionally distanced from the pain I was observing.

Vancouver, BC: What a joy and a privilege it is to be witness to the premiére of a haunting, beautifully written and performed Canadian play. The impact of Hiro Kanagawa's sensitive adaptation of Ibsen's play was evident by the momentary electrically-charged silence of the audience before applauding, at the end of both the first and second act.

Vancouver, BC:  I missed last year's run of PROUD at The Firehall so I was happy to be able to get to the opening night of this 2015 run of PROUD. Although, knowing it was a political comedy about Stephen Harper, and being far more of a fan of Harper than a detractor, I confess I was a bit apprehensive that this would be a carping diatribe against our Canadian PM and his policies.

Vancouver, BC:  If the names did not already tell you that Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is intended to be a comedic homage to Anton Chekhov, the bust of Chehkov in Alison Green's wonderful book-lined sitting-room set would be a strong indication.

Vancouver BC: On a miserably cold, rainy night we took the Skytrain from downtown Vancouver out to Douglas College in New Westminster. We went to see a student production of Charles Mee's adaption of Euripides' The Women of Troy. I was overjoyed to experience a production that was so much a visual and auditory delight that it made our sodden trek out to New Westminster more than worthwhile.