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…]

King Charles III: It’s stylish but is it relevant?

The Arts Club is presenting Mike Bartlett's King Charles III at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.

Costumer Christoper David Gauthier knows what he’s doing in King Charles III. (Photo by David Cooper)

Who gives a toss?

In Mike Bartlett’s 2014 script, Queen Elizabeth II has just died and Charles has become King, although his coronation is a few months off. In one of his first acts as monarch, he refuses to give his assent to a bill that would restrict the freedom of the press, although that bill has been passed by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Before long, there are riots in the streets as opposing groups clash, and power plays start to metastasize within the royal family. [Read more…]

VANCOUVER GREENROOM 13: Operating theatre

Theatre is community. 

Operating theatre.

Medical students rehearse Into the Woods—so that they’ll be better doctors. (Photo by Nathan Bajar for The New York Times)

OPERATING THEATRE

Do you know what all of those losers who got into medical school want to do? Musical comedy.

The medical school at New York City’s Columbia University has its own theatre and it takes seriously the effect that rehearsing and performing has on trainee doctors. According to Dr. Lisa Mellman, the senior associate dean of student affairs at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, “It enhances empathy and understanding and emotional intelligence of our students, and it translates into enhanced understanding for patients from other backgrounds and cultures.”

The young medics bring their own vocabulary to the process, of course. Rehearsing a production of Into the Woods, the director said that she wanted to the two guys singing “Agony” to rip their shirts open. When the designer asked “How far?”, the director replied, “Just to the bottom of the xiphoid process.” [Read more…]

Honour: this story of a Mumbai courtesan is well-intentioned but narratively weak

Dipti Mehta's Honour is at the Culture Lab as part of Diwali in BC.

In Honour, the textures of the characterizations—and fabrics—are stunning. (Photo by Kyle Rosenberg)

I have no doubt that writer and performer Dipti Mehta’s heart is in the right place, but she’s not a great storyteller.

In her solo show, Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan, Mehta introduces us to Rani, whose mother, Chameli, is a sex worker in Mumbai’s “Fuck Lane”. Rani has just turned 16 and Chameli has decided that it’s time to sell her daughter’s virginity, her “honour”. Chameli loves Rani, but she sees her decision as pragmatic: Chameli and Rani are so outcast, she reasons persuasively, that there is no way for either of them to enter mainstream society. [Read more…]

The acting in Happy Place is stronger than the script

Pamela Mala Sinha's script for Happy Place is receiving an excellent production at the Firehall Arts Centre.

In Happy Place, the psychiatric patients are discouraged from asking one another questions. Instead, they play imaginative games with rocks. (Photo by Tim Matheson)

The storytelling in Happy Place could be more focused and compelling, but some of the play’s content pierces to the heart of the current cultural moment and the cast is stellar.

In Happy Place, playwright Pamela Mala Sinha takes us to an upscale inpatient treatment centre for women who have attempted suicide. Samira has just arrived. She knows that she was raped and tortured five years earlier, but she can’t remember the event in enough detail to identify and accuse her attacker. “I want to cut it out of my head. What I can’t remember,” she says. [Read more…]