My top ten theatrical pleasures of 2015

Hooray for Vancouver theatre makers!

I’m especially pleased to note that my Top Ten list of theatrical experiences from this past year includes a whole bunch of work from emerging artists as well as seasoned pros.

Okay. I’m going to run through my faves in chronological order, starting with the most recent.

 

Billy Marchenski, Radix Theatre, TBD, Tibetan Book of the Dead

Billy Marchenski was one of the spirit guides in Radix Theatre’s TBD.

Radix Theatre’s TBD

Inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, this immersive experience altered my emotional landscape.

Every day for 21 days, the folks from Radix Theatre initiated some kind of interaction with every one of the souls in the 75-member audience, leading us through our own deaths to our rebirths. Sometimes participants would simply get text or audio messages. And sometimes deities would show up in our lives. (Radix tracked us, using an app that we all agreed to install on our cell phones.)

Check out the first two Related posts at the bottom of this entry.
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Buy your tickets RIGHT NOW for Empire of the Son

Tetsuro Shigemetsu in Empire of the Son at the Cultch

Testuro Shigemetsu’s solo show, Empire of the Son, is even cooler than this photo—and a lot less scary.

Okay, this is kind of the artistic equivalent of insider trading, but you should buy your tickets for Tetsuro Shigematsu’s Empire of the Son right now before my review is posted online—and before other critics have a chance to chime in and word of mouth hits high gear.

In The Vancouver Sun, Erika Thorkelson has already praised the show, others are bound to follow suit, and, even though the Cultch has extended the run by a full week to October 24, tickets are selling fast and there aren’t many left.

Empire of the Son is about Shigematsu’s relationship with his father, Akira. Like most men in most cultures, they’re part of a lineage of self-containment. Movingly, and with great complexity, this script explores compassion and love.

The writing is gorgeous, and, thanks to Richard Wolfe’s direction, Pam Johnson’s set, Gerald King’s lighting, Steve Charles’s sound design, and Carole Macdonald’s props, the production is superb.

If you try to get tickets tomorrow and they’re sold out, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

What to see this weekend: The Rainmaker, and Our Town

The Rainmaker, Pacific Theatre, Robert Salvador, Pippa Johnstone

Pippa Johnstone and Robert Salvador get sweet and sexy in The Rainmaker

The best shows running this weekend are both American classics: The Rainmaker and Our Town.
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Watch your Butt

Butt Kapinski, Deanna Fleysher

Deanna Fleysher does participatory clown film noir at the Culture Lab until October 11

You know how laughter sometimes just keeps spooling out of you, like it’s this great, long silken rope and you can’t believe how much of it there is? Like you just sit there helplessly and shake while it keeps unraveling? Kids laugh like that all the time. And that’s how I was laughing when I saw Butt Kapinski, for my second time, at the Cultch last night. [Read more…]

Second thoughts—well, further thoughts—about Since You Left Us

Since You Left Us, Susinn McFarlen, Presentation House, Vancouver theatre

The cast of Susinn McFarlen’s “Since You Left Us” will make you belly laugh

With annoying regularity, I’ll write a review that goes online or into print, and I’ll think, “Damn! I wish I’d analyzed that more perceptively” That happened recently with my review of Susinn McFarlen’s Since You Left Us[Read more…]

Why we shouldn’t take the Jessies too seriously

Jessies, The Seafarer, Pacific Theatre, Vancouver theatre

The ONLY Jessie The Seafarer won was for outstanding production. What’s up with that?

If we ever needed a reminder of why we shouldn’t take the Jessies too seriously, all we have to do is look at this year’s awards in the large-theatre stream.  [Read more…]

Iceland: your weekend destination

Iceland, Nicolas Billon, Kathleen Duborg, Vancouver theatre

Lindsey Angell (top) as Kassandra, Munish Sharma as Halim, and Georgia Beaty as Anna in Nicolas Billon’s Iceland

Iceland‘s last show is tomorrow night. Go. Lindsey Angell’s performance will knock your socks off. The whole show, from the script up, is a pleasure.

Iceland is part of playwright Nicolas Billon’s triptych, Fault Lines, which also includes Greenland and Faro Islands. Using monologues in an imaginative exploration of capitalism, Billon introduces is to an Estonian student working as a prostitute in Vancouver, a real estate agent, and a conservative Christian woman.

The play betrays itself a bit—the climax is forced—but, other than that, the writing is terrifically smart and original.

Under Kathleen Duborg’s direction, all of the performances are strong, including Munish Sharma’s Halim (the realtor), and Georgia Beatty’s Anna (the Christian). But it’s Angell’s performance as Kassandra, the student/hooker, that will leave you gobsmacked. I’ve been a fan of Angell’s work since she was a student at Studio 58. She has SO arrived.

Gazing at Mrs. Warren’s navel in Iceland

Mrs. Warren's Profession, Melissa Oei, Vancouver theatre

Playing Vivie in Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Melissa Oei serves notice that she’s a serious actor

One weekend, so much to see: Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Iceland, Through the Gaze of a Navel.

Director Marisa Smith’s production George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession is packin’ ’em in—deservedly—at the Rickshaw Theatre. I’ve never seen such a clear, imaginative take on the text. (It includes a violin/cello/harp arrangement of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”.) Excellent performances from Melissa Oei, Linda Quibell, and Daniel Arnold. This show is only up till Sunday, so get in there. [Read more…]

Mies Julie is still the best show in town

Mies Julie, the Cultch, Vancouver theatre

Bongile Mantsai and Hilda Cronje duke it out in Mies Julie

Mies Julie is the show to see this weekend.

In some ways, the evening bears the burden of Strindberg’s original. At the beginning, you want to scream, “Let’s make this an early night! Just don’t fuck the crazy lady!” But that happens anyway, of course and, in many ways, Yaël Farber’s new version of the story is a huge improvement over what Strindberg had in mind. [Read more…]

Sex, shame, and land claims

Robert Salvador, Alexa Devine, Allan Morgan, and Manami Hara in This Stays in the Room

Robert Salvador, Alexa Devine, Allan Morgan, and Manami Hara get clear about shame in This Stays in the Room

This weekend, I highly recommend two shows.

This Stays in the Room (Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre at the Gallery Gachet, 88 East Cordova) is based on true stories about shame and forgiveness. Mindy Parfitt’s direction is fantastically resourceful. And the show’s got a stellar cast (Alexa Devine, Manami Hara, Allan Morgan, and Robert Salvador). This Stays in the Room closes March 30, so book now. [Read more…]