As You Like It: Is Shakespeare’s comedy the right vehicle for a meditation on the refugee crisis?

Michael Scholar Jr.'s As You Like It draws inspiration from the refugee crisis.

Playing Orlando in As You Like It, William Edward serves notice that he is an actor to be watched.

There’s a lot going on. And a bunch of it works.

In setting As You Like It, Shakespeare’s comedy about banishment, director Michael Scholar Jr. draws inspiration from the global refugee crisis. The combination isn’t always a good fit, but it does result in the creation of a multi-textured, sometimes surprising world. [Read more…]

VANCOUVER GREENROOM 9: Failure is essential

Vancouver Greenroom: theatre is community

Mike Bisbiglia stresses the importance of failure.

Mike Bisbiglia doles out tips on keeping it real. (photo: Robby Klein/Contour for Getty Images)

FAILURE IS ESSENTIAL

Comedian, actor, and filmmaker Mike Birbiglia offers some of the best artistic advice ever.

Highlights include, “Failure is essential. There’s no substitute for it. It’s not just encouraged but required.” And it’s probably the critic in me that makes me love this: “I’ve learned that harsh feedback, constructive feedback, even weird, random feedback, is all helpful, if you know the essence of what you’re trying to convey.”

Excellent! I will continue being weird and random. [Read more…]

Japanese Problem: these people were Canadian and they weren’t a problem

Japanese internment in Canada.

This family of Japanese Canadians was forcibly relocated in 1942.

Japanese Problem is delicate production, but it packs a punch.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, thousands of Canadian citizens of Japanese origin were removed from the West Coast and forced to live in internment camps in the BC interior and elsewhere in the country. This was despite the fact that the RCMP said there was no evidence of spying or other fifth-column activity in the community. The citizens’ property, including homes and the sizeable fishing fleet from Steveston, was confiscated and sold—presumably to pay for their incarceration, although greed and racism were clearly factors. And these innocent people were not allowed to move freely within Canada until 1949. [Read more…]

VANCOUVER GREENROOM 8: Perfection is the enemy of excellence

Vancouver Greenroom: theatre is community

 

Seattle Repertory Theatre has initiated a program called Public Works Seattle.

In Seattle Rep’s version of Homer’s Odyssey, homeless people, vets, and children join professional actors on-stage. (Photo by Jim Bennett)

MEANINGFUL INVITATION 

“Perfection is the enemy of excellence.” Doesn’t that sentence make your shoulders relax? Wouldn’t it be lovely to hear it during rehearsals?

It’s a sentence favoured by Simone Hamilton, one of the driving forces behind Seattle Repertory Theatre’s production of Homer’s Odyssey—a production that involves about 100 performers, including military vets, children, homeless people, bikers, and four professional actors.

This Odyssey is part of a new initiative called Public Works Seattle, whose slogan is, “Theatre of, by, and for the people.” It’s about inviting new folks into the theatre, not just by handing out free tickets, but by encouraging them to perform.

Read all about it in this inspiring article from The Seattle Times. [Read more…]

Posh: Is it worth spending an evening with these toffee-nosed gits?

Fighting Chance Productions is producing Posh at the PAL Theatre.

In Posh, the characters wear dusty-rose cummerbunds, even though they are supposed to be upper-class.

I love class analysis. Posh is packed with class analysis. So why does this script, which premiered in London in 2010, not work for me in this Vancouver production in 2017?

In Laura Wade’s play, a group that calls itself The Riot Club meets in the private dining room of a suburban pub. They are all upper-class students from Oxford University, and their goal for the evening is to get hammered—or chateaued as they call it—and run amok. A tradition of the club is to destroy the rooms they rent and settle the expenses afterwards. [Read more…]

The Christians: for an atheist, whether or not hell exists is not a burning question

Pacific Theatre is presenting The Christians.

Playwright Lucas Heath has excellent hair, and, in The Christians, quirky theatrical instincts.

The Christians: if you’re not Christian, what’s in this play for you? Not a lot in terms of moral complexity. But a fair bit in terms of theatricality.

In Lucas Hnath’s script, Pastor Paul is the leader of a gigantic evangelical congregation: his church has thousands of seats and “a baptismal font as big as a swimming pool.” But, delivering a sermon near the top of the play, he drops a theological bomb on his flock: “We are no longer a congregation that believes in hell.” [Read more…]

Perestroika, which means “restructuring”, is faultily structured—and sometimes transcendent

The Arts Club is producing Perestroika, which is part of Tony Kushner's Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.

Lois Anderson makes one heck of an entrance as The Angel in Angels in America, Part 2: Perestroika.

Like a fever dream, this production of Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika comes and goes. Sometimes, I was completely in its thrall. At other times, I popped out of the experience and thought, “Oh. I’m in a theatre. And not much is happening.” [Read more…]

September 14 Fringe reviews from Colin: Executing Justice, and Let Me Freeze Your Head

Here you go: my final reviews, Executing Justice and Let Me Freeze Your Head—critiques 28 and 29—from this year’s Vancouver Fringe.

Neither review is enthusiastic, but…there are a lot of excellent shows at the festival.

Go see Paul Strickland's Ain't True and Uncle False at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

Solo performer Paul Strickland (Ain’t True and Uncle False) is loving Vancouver audiences. It’s mutual.

Of the performances I’ve been to, the three must-sees are: Multiple Organism, Ain’t True and Uncle False, and Six Fine Lines. (The hyperlinks I’ve just created will lead you to those reviews. Sometimes, you’ll have to hit the “Read more” button.)

I also strongly support Brain Machine (established talent Andrew Bailey) and A Night at the Rose Coloured Discotheque (fresh talent Arggy Jenati and Dylan Archambault). I had a great time giving myself over to androgynous spoken-word artist Cat Kidd at Hyena Subpoena. And especially if you have child companions, Beaver Dreams, and The Birdmann and Egg: Birdhouse are both a blast.

One more weekend! Get out there! [Read more…]

VANCOUVER GREENROOM 7: In fall, birds fly east

Vancouver Greenroom: theatre is community

 

Alexandra Lainfiesta has joined the Birmingham Academy at Stratford.

Alexandra Lainfiesta won a Jessie. Now she’s at Stratford.

FALL, AND THE BIRDS ARE FLYING…EAST?

East is the direction that Vancouver artists fly when they’re getting national recognition, so it’s a very good thing that actor Alexandra Lainfiesta, writer Crystal Verge, and multi-tasker Christine Quintana are all winging that way this autumn.

Just this spring, Lainfiesta won the Jessie for Lead Actress (Small Theatre) for her work in Solo Collective’s production of Katie Hoffman’s Green Lake. Now, she’s at Ontario’s Stratford Festival as one of only seven actors selected for the Birmingham Conservatory. [Read more…]

September 13 Fringe reviews from Colin: The Immaculate Big Bang, Teaching Shakespeare

Here you go: Fringe reviews numbers 26 and 27 from me. Including Deneh’s reviews, that means that there are 36 reviews on this site so far. More to come.

Stand-up comedian Bill Santiago is presenting The Immaculate Big Bang at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

It took me a while to adjust to Bill Santiago’s energetic performance style. How Canadian is THAT reaction?

THE IMMACULATE BIG BANG

Bill Santiago’s comic monologue is so much better than the rest of the stand-up I’ve seen at this year’s Fringe that he makes the other guys look like they’re sitting down.

Sparked by the death of his father and the birth of his daughter Cielo, The Immaculate Big Bang is about the meaning of existence and the nature of reality—so, yeah, it’s ambitious. And Big Bang finds its core when that ambition kicks in—not just when Santiago explores the weirdness of the multiple, bubble-like realities posited by quantum physics, but also when he delves deeper into his family history, including his beloved father’s compulsive philandering.

Once that groove is established, some of the funniest material is about religion. This includes Santiago’s suggestion that the Bible’s book of Leviticus be replaced by Green Eggs and Ham: “Sam I am. I am Sam.” It’s so cryptic and redundant, he argues, it would fit right in.

There are some great quick jokes. Dogs are now allowed into heaven, he reveals, on the condition that they’ve only had sex people-style. And there’s a hilarious bit involving a Kermode dragon that I’ll leave you to discover for yourself.

Santiago is still working on this material and it needs tightening, but the morning after seeing Big Bang, I’m still laughing at my favourite bits.

Remaining performances at Studio 1398 on September 15 (10:25) and 17 (6:30) [Read more…]