Only Drunks and Children Tell the Truth: How much fresh light does this revered play shine?

The Firehall Arts Centre is producing Only Drunks and Children Tell the Truth

Janice (Chelsea Rose Tucker) and Barb (Ashley Chartrand) ‘working their differences out’. (Photo by Emily Cooper)

This is a guest review from Deneh’Cho Thompson.

The Firehall Arts Centre first brought Drew Hayden Taylor’s Only Drunks and Children Tell the Truth to Vancouver in 1997, and now it’s back.

Only Drunks and Children Tell the Truth follows a pair of sisters as they grapple with the death of their mother. The difficulty: they were separated as children during the Sixties Scoop, a period in which governmental organizations stole thousands of aboriginal children from their families and placed them in the foster care system. The effects of these forced adoptions are still playing out across Canada. [Read more…]

Wilderness is a thicket of good intentions and overstatement

Studio 58 is producing Wilderness.

Playing Cole, Nolan McConnell-Fidyk understands the strength delivering his lines like a person, not an actor.

This production makes a weak script worse.

The subject matters. Wilderness is about young adults who are struggling with mental health issues, including addictions. Against the young people’s will, in many cases, their parents have sent them to a therapeutic camp in the Utah wilderness.

Playwrights Seth Bockley and Anne Hamburger—the latter sent her son to a wilderness camp—developed their script based on interviews with other families who have firsthand experience. But the results are choppy. With multiple characters and two timeframes, the script contains very few sustained scenes and precious little narrative development. Characters often stand and spew the content of their interviews, and the result feels more like disjointed reportage than compelling theatre. [Read more…]

Satellite(s): this new play spins on wonky orbits

Solo Collective is producing Aaron Bushkowsky's Satellite(s) at Performance Works.

Mason Temple, seen here with Sharon Crandall, delivers a breakout performance in Satellite(s).

What a wasted opportunity.

Foreign home ownership in Vancouver is a huge and complicated issue. With its threads of racism, self-righteousness, entitlement, greed, and privilege, it’s ripe for theatrical treatment. But, in his new script, Satellite(s), playwright Aaron Bushkowsky manages to find almost nothing of interest in it. [Read more…]

Coming Up For Air: skilled work from Bernard Cuffling

Leslie Mildiner has directed Coming Up For Air for the Kay Meek Centre.

Bernard Cuffling slips effortlessly into the hear of George Bowling in George Orwell’s Coming Up For Air.

A huge part of the reward in Coming Up For Air is the depth that it finds in an ordinary life.

Both George Orwell’s 1938 novel and Leslie Mildiner’s stage adaptation begin with the immortal line: “The idea really came to me the day I got my new false teeth.” That’s George Bowling speaking. Fat and middle-aged, he lives in the suburbs with his fretful, narrow-shouldered wife Hilda and their two demanding children. Feeling trapped by domesticity and by his work in the insurance business, George describes his neighbourhood on Ellesmere Road as “a line of semi-detached torture chambers.” [Read more…]

The Ridiculous Darkness: formally startling, movingly inclusive

Alley Theatre is producing The Ridiculous Darkness with Neworld Theatre.

Emilie Leclerc is givin’ it in The Ridiculous Darkness. (Wendy D Photography)

Don’t go to The Ridiculous Darkness if you’re looking for a standard-issue night at the theatre, or even if you’re only interested in fully successful productions. Do go if you’re up for an aesthetic adventure.

The provenance of this show is complicated. It started out as a German radio play by Wolfram Lotz that satirizes both Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness, the Joseph Conrad novel upon which the film is based. Daniel Brunet translated the radio play into English and Daniel Arnold has adapted it—freely—for the stage. [Read more…]

Christine Quintana’s speech at the Siminovitch banquet

Siminovitch Prize winner Marcus Youssef named Christine Quintana as his protégé.

I’d like to begin with some thank yous –

First off, to my family and in particular my mom, who has made this life possible for me. To Jiv, the best person I’ve ever met at a theatre conference.

To my theatre family – my dear friends and collaborators – The Delinquents, the Matriarchy, and the incredible community in Vancouver who fuel me with their generosity and inspiration.

To Shawn MacDonald, who first named me as a playwright; Craig Holzchuh, who as Artistic Director of Theatre la Seizième gave me my first commission as a playwright and opened many doors for me; Jessie van Rijn, whose relentless support has sparked many adventures. And, of course, Marcus Youssef, who I will speak about shortly. [Read more…]

Marcus Youssef’s acceptance speech (Siminovitch Prize)

Marcus Youssef, who often collaborates, just won the Siminovitch Prize for 2017.

“Phew. Hello. Bonjour. That’s pretty much all the French I’m capable of speaking – West Coaster, sorry. First: there is no way for me, up here, to say what I’m about to say in a way that doesn’t sound pro forma or like a cliché, but: it easily could have been any one of the four of us. That’s just the truth.
My fellow nominees Evelyne de la Cheneliere, Hannah Moscovitch and Donna Michele St Bernard are brilliant, compassionate, incisive, radical and breathtakingly talented Canadian artists. At the nomination ceremony in Toronto a few weeks ago, each shared words that confirmed for me what their work had already led me to suspect: they are my compadres, my sisters, fellow-choosers of this very particular artistic activity, one that the extraordinary generosity of Elinore and Lou Siminovitch, of the National Arts Centre, of Kathy Siminovitch, Margo and the Siminovitch Family, and their many many admirers, partners and supporters has seen fit – for deep, personal reasons – to honour.  [Read more…]

This show about race is one of the most stimulating productions of the season

Lydia R. Diamond's Smart People addresses race in America.

Jackson (Kwesi Ameyaw) and Valerie (Katrina Reynolds) negotiate a bloody first meeting in Smart People.

Mitch and Murray Productions consistently produces some of the smartest shows in town. This one is called Smart People.

Lydia R. Diamond has set her 2016 play in and around Harvard in 2007 and 2008 during the run-up to Barack Obama’s first election. It’s about race and it is appropriately complicated.

The play’s white guy, Brian White—yep—who is, interestingly, the play’s pivotal character, is a cognitive neuroscientist who lectures at Harvard. He’s up for tenure, but there’s a problem: his goal is to prove that all white people are racist and he’s getting close to doing just that. Brian is investigating the possibility of an innate predisposition to racism, and his stats on brain activity, oxygenation of the blood, and so on are adding force to his thesis. Harvard liberals liked Brian when he was a colourful iconoclast, but they’re less keen on him now that the iconoclast has an arsenal, and he’s aiming it at them. [Read more…]

Girls Like That: How theatrical is this exploration of gender politics?

Evan Pacey's Girls Like Us examines slut shaming.

Louise Cove (left) and Isabella Tecson are standout members in the strong cast of Girls Like Us.

There are a couple of different ways of approaching Girls Like That, which is about slut shaming: you could look at it as a piece of theatre or you could assess it as a focal point for discussion. Despite committed performances from the teenaged cast, this production of Girls Like That mostly doesn’t work on theatrical terms. To a large extent, that’s because Evan Placey’s script is so polemical. I daresay Girls Like That works better as part of a social process. And that process is an urgent one with high stakes. [Read more…]

The Lonesome West: Will it leave you more lonesome?

Martin McDonagh wrote The Lonesome West.

In The Lonesome West, brothers Valene and Coleman repeatedly threaten to kill each another. It’s a comedy. (Photo by Mark Reznek)

The Lonesome West is about forgiveness—kind of, if you squint. But I do not forgive The Lonesome West.

Martin McDonagh’s 1997 script is part of a trilogy that also includes The Beauty Queen of Leenane and A Skull in Connemera. All three are set in Leenane, a particularly hopeless and murderous little village on Ireland’s west coast. McDonagh plays his characters’ despair for laughs, which can be a remarkably productive strategy. [Read more…]