Vancouver theatre review

The LIfespan Of A Fact 
By Jeremy Karaken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell 
Based on the book by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal 
Directed by Jennifer Clement 
A Kindred Theatre Society Production 

Three pages in to my reading of The LifeSpan Of A Fact, the book on which this play is based, I knew that this would be the sort of theatre that draws me back to my original roots in online reviewing, that began in 2006 with the launch of  My original concept was to write from the perspective of an audience member. I shared the emotional impact that a production had on me, how the script and performances resonated with my passions and prejudices, rather than focusing on the "facts" of the production. 

From the first tremulous rumbling sounds of Bachman's score, that reverberated through my core, I was spellbound as this ensemble of 10 acrobats conjured up images of birth, decay and rebirth, of controlled power versus violent frenzy, of darkness versus light. In dance there is an almost esp-like perception of how your partner moves in space. But imagine the split-second precision of timing and the absolute trust that you will be caught and held, needed when you hurtle towards your partner, and the lights go dark.

We Will Rock You
Music and Lyrics by Queen Book by Ben Elton
Director  Saccha Dennis 
In 1994, I was in Denver, Colorado to give a conference presentation on Selenium: Beyond Glutathione Peroxidase. Arriving the day before, I looked at the local newspaper to see what the theatre scene was like. A couple of blocks from my hotel, at the Denver Center of the Performing Arts, a play about Janis Joplin was on and I bought a ticket. Though I did not know the term at the time, "Love Janis", which wove her music into aspects of her life story, was the first "jukebox musical" I saw.  I remembered  this, when I saw We Will Rock You, described as a jukebox musical featuring the music of Queen.  

Kinky Boots 
Vancouver, BC: What an exhilarating feeling to be back in a packed theatre house with an audience, lit up like a live wire by Raise You Up, the upbeat song that ends the show.  

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.

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.



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:  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: 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.

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. 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: 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.

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:  In Vancouver, September is synonymous with Vancouver Fringe Festival month. Over a couple of weeks, venues on and off Granville Island are crowded with people. Some love to cram in as many shows as they can, while others come to see a friend perform and the Fringe Festival may be their first exposure to theatre.