In Bar Mitzvah Boy, faith sneaks up on you

Playing Rabbi Michael, actor Gina Chiarelli stands at a synagogue lecturn in Mar Mitzvah Boy.

Playing Rabbi Michael, Gina Chiarelli radiates faith in Bar Mitzvah Boy—some of the time. (Photo by Emily Cooper)

Emotionally, Bar Mitzvah Boy is a sweetly stealthy play.

It takes a while for the script to find its feet. In the set-up, we find out that Joey, a successful divorce lawyer, wants to be bar mitzvahed before his grandson is. Somehow, Joey missed out on the ceremony when he was a youth. When the female rabbi, Michael, refuses to let Joey buy himself a quickie ritual, he insists on private classes with her and, for some reason—perhaps because she senses that there is something unspoken at stake—she agrees. [Read more…]

Butcher: Go vegetarian

Peter Anderson and Daryl Shuttleworth both act in Butcher, which is about ongoing ethnic violence.

Peter Anderson and Daryl Shuttleworth appear in Nicolas Billon’s problematic Butcher.

Nicola Billon’s Butcher exploits real suffering to create gimmicky entertainment. I hated it so much that I wanted to boo.

On Christmas Eve, an old guy in a military uniform has been dropped off at a police station. A butcher’s hook was tied around his neck and the business card of a lawyer named Hamilton Barnes was impaled on the hook. There were two words scrawled on the card: “Arrest me.”

In the opening scene, a cop named Inspector Lamb is trying to interrogate the old guy, whose name is Josef and who speaks a made-up language called Lavinian. (In the play, Lavinia is a real country.) Lamb has also called in Barnes to figure out why his card was on the hook. And, before long, a Lavinian translator named Elena arrives.

Whatever is going on, it’s about ethnic violence. Josef and Elena are from different ethnic groups within Lavinia. When Elena sees Josef’s military uniform, she reacts with horror and fury. When he finds out the she is not of his ethnicity, he spits on her.

Lavinia could be all sorts of places. For me, the most immediate reference point is the former Yugoslavia.

Here’s the thing: Butcher takes very serious subject matter, including extreme physical torture and child rape and, rather than giving that material the thoughtful attention that it deserves Butcher uses the energy of horror to drive a superficial and mechanical plot. [Read more…]

I Lost My Husband: I lost a couple of hours

Meghan Gardiner's character Evelyn sings karaoke in I Lose My Husband

Meghan Gardiner gets down—sort of—in I Lost My Husband (Photo by David Cooper)

I Lost My Husband is boring. Why waste time, talent, and money on it?

In the story, Evelyn loses her spouse Peter in a bet with a bartender named Melissa. Peter, whom we never meet, obligingly moves right in with the younger woman.

There are a couple of almost-interesting wrinkles in the script’s gender politics. For both Evelyn and Melissa, Peter is a trophy husband, a success object: he owns a BMW dealership. Melissa even admits, at one point, that she is a “car whore.” And, although the script is deliberately progressive—in a mild way—when Evelyn describes herself as “a hardcore feminist”, her claim is an obvious and manipulative exaggeration. So, in these instances at least, the script has a sense of humour about its politics. [Read more…]

Colin Thomas was the theatre critic for The Georgia Straight for 30 years.

.

SUBSCRIBE—free!—to

COLIN THOMAS’S NEWSLETTER

Every week, I curate the best local, national, and international theatre coverage and send it right your mailbox.

I include lots of links, so you can follow up on your favourite stories.

And I include links to all of my reviews—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

IT’S FREE! IT’S EASY! IT’S LUXURIOUS!

Click here to subscribe.

Click here to read recent newsletters.

“Bloody brilliant and chockablock full of such wonderful stuff. It’s like our own local NYTIMES!!! I LOVE IT!”
– Patti Allan

https://colinthomas.ca/2018/03/09/subscribe-colin-thomas-newsletter

Forget About Tomorrow: Get to the point

Tom (Craig Erickson) sings a song of love—on video—in Forget About Tomorrow. (Photo by David Cooper)

When I was returning to my seat after intermission, I had virtually no interest in what was going to happen next. That’s not a good sign.

In Forget About Tomorrow, playwright Jill Daum tells the story of Jane, whose husband Tom develops early-onset Alzheimer’s. The main problem with the play is that most of Act 1 is redundant. Virtually everyone entering the theatre will know that the script is about Alzheimer’s disease, but, for almost its entire length, the first act avoids the inevitable central drama. [Read more…]

The After After Party is a banger of a night out

The Cultch is presenting The After After Party in the Vancity Culture Lab.

Cheyenne Mabberley (Jules) and Katey Hoffman (Fiona) open a Pandora’s box of comic free association in The After After Party. (Photo by Helena Boden.)

The day after seeing The After After Party, I’m still laughing as I describe it to friends. The laughter is uncontrollable. Like I’m being tickled. By unseen hands. That belong to somebody that I like but can’t identify. If you’re up for an audacious good time, The After After Party is the show for you.

In the story, it’s 2006. Jules and Fiona have one month to go before they graduate from high school. They’re losers, but they are determined to become popular before the school year ends, and they have decided to up their status by partying hard. But the night has been so wild that, when we first meet them, sitting on a park bench, they can’t remember the pre-party, the party, or the after party, which is making it challenging for them to find the after after party. They’re also a bit concerned that they might have murdered somebody, so they decide to time travel by snorting Ritalin. [Read more…]

An Almost Holy Picture should come with trigger warnings about bad parenting

Pacific Theatre is presenting An Almost Holy Picture.

Actor David Snider brings simplicity to An Almost Holy Picture. The script doesn’t always return the favour.

In An Almost Holy Picture, Samuel Gentle delivers a monologue about his relationship with his daughter Ariel. Samuel is such a bad parent that I wanted to stab him. To make matters worse, he is a bad parent in a very obvious way. The moral of the story and the action that Samuel needs to take were painfully clear to me soon after the intermission—but it took Samuel another long, meandering, homespun act to catch up. It’s not a good idea to let your audience get that far ahead of you. [Read more…]

Pss Pss: Why so old-fashioned?

Pss Pss is playing the York Theatre.

Yep, this takes skill. Maybe I’m just greedy. (Photo of Pss Pss by Pipo Gialluisi)

It’s fine. It’s okay. It’s kind of charming. But that’s not enough.

In Pss Pss, Swiss artists Camilla Pessi and Simone Fassari play mute clown characters who meet, struggle for possession of an apple, and, through increasingly challenging acrobatics, end up on a trapeze.

It takes too long for things to get going, though, and, even at this show’s high end, the skills aren’t that dazzling. [Read more…]

Fun Home: talent galore—and lesbians centre stage

The Arts Club is producing Fun Home, the musical.

Alison times three: Sara-Jeanne Hosie, Jamie MacLean, and Kelli Ogmundson play the same character at different ages in Fun Home. (Photo by David Cooper)

It’s subtle, which is great. It’s queer, which is welcome. It’s also narratively unsurprising. But it’s still the best show in town.

The musical Fun Home is based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. In both, Bechdel, who is lesbian, struggles to understand her relationship with her gay father Bruce, who committed suicide.

The musical is a memory play and, as in memory, several realities coexist. Alison is 43, the same age her dad was when he killed himself. She watches ten-year-old Small Alison as Bruce bullies her into being more girly and wearing her barrette. And she stands guard over Medium Alison as she goes away to college, comes out, and falls in love with a woman named Joan. [Read more…]

Next to Normal: more interesting for the local talent than the prize-winning material

Chris Lam has directed Next to Normal.

If you don’t have production shots, I guess a poster will do. 

The cast is talented and the production is musically precise, but Next to Normal is not a well-built musical—despite having won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2010.

Act 1 is mostly boring because the protagonist, a housewife named Diana who has bipolar disorder with psychotic features, is passive. Stuck in her own suffering, she ignores her teenage daughter Natalie. Diana’s relationship with her son is really all about her. Diana dismisses her husband Dan as boring and uncommunicative and, when he tries to help, she sings an angry song in which she tells him that he couldn’t possibly understand the pain she endures.

There’s not a lot to invest in here. Dan says that he was attracted to Diana’s wild spirit, but we never see the beauty and the love that were lost and may be recovered, so how can we care about Diana or her marriage? [Read more…]