Archives for October 2017

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)


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…]

Go ahead: satisfy your Kuriosity

In Kurios, Rola Bola is one of the best acts.

My man James Eulises Gonzalez balances like this, way up in the air, on a moving swing. Shut up.

It’s worth it. Like a great pair of shoes or an indulgent vacation, a great night out is worth a splurge. And Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities is a great night out.

The world of this Cirque du Soleil production, which premiered in 2014, is steam-punk: it’s fascinated with mechanical invention and science, so, thanks to set designer Stéphane Roy, contortionists perform atop a giant mechanical hand and an acrobat makes his entrance in a fantastical flying machine. There’s a sly undertow to this Victoriana as well, a rebellion from the organic world. Those female contortionists, and, later, a group of trampolining men are exotic biological specimens: their costumes make them look like brilliantly coloured geckos, but they are gilled; after flying through the air, the men flirtatiously flutter the scaly ruffs around their heads and hips. When a scientist tries to capture the contortionists in a bell jar, they defy him. [Read more…]

VANCOUVER GREENROOM 12: Hearing voices

Latinx playwrights have a friend in Jacob Padrón and the Sol Project.

Jacob Padrón is the artistic director of the seven-member collective, the Sol Project, which champions Latinx playwrights.


The core goal of the Sol Project is to strengthen the presence of Latinx playwrights off-Broadway and in regional theatres in the US.

Although it only launched last May, the Sol Project has already been incredibly successful. The collective enterprise plans to develop and co-produce 12 works by Latinx playwrights with 12 Off-Broadway institutions. Nine companies, including The Public Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, and LAByrinth Theatre Company have already signed on. [Read more…]

VIVA: artistic adventure in Las Vegas

Aenigma Theatre and Bright Young Theatre are co-producing VIVA at the Havana.

In VIVA, Alice and Graeme are heading different directions, but their stories overlap in Las Vegas.

There’s a lot of powerful writing in Scott Button’s new play VIVA. That’s the most important thing to know. There are also lapses of taste, which undermine the strengths.

In VIVA, Button overlaps two narratives. At the outset, Alice and Graeme, who don’t know one another, are on the same plane to Las Vegas. Button does an excellent job of controlling the revelation of information, so I won’t mess with that other than to say that the stories involve Graeme’s search for a lost family member and Alice’s attempt to save her terminally ill brother by illegal means. [Read more…]

Thanks for Giving: thanks for the ambition

Margo Kane is in Thanks for Giving at the Arts Club's Granville Island Stage.

This image of Margo Kane looks playful, but there’s a lot of darkness along with the laughs in Thanks for Giving.

It’s as if playwright Kevin Loring has tried to cram half a dozen Greek tragedies—plus a couple of episodes of The Honeymooners—into one evening. His new play, Thanks for Giving, is inspiringly ambitious, often funny, sometimes beautiful, and structurally scattershot.

Like a Greek tragedy, Thanks for Giving tells a story of family trauma, but this time, instead of the House of Atreus, it’s the Bear Clan. And it starts off with Pa, the settler grandfather, shooting a grizzly sow and her two cubs. When Pa’s wife Nan finds out about this over Thanksgiving dinner, she is furious: her grandmother taught her that the grizzly is a healer—and a relative. [Read more…]

VANCOUVER GREENROOM 11: We need to talk

Theatre is community

Colin Thomas writes about Vancouver theatre.

I’m getting into some new things that you should probably know about.


I love you, I really do. All of you who read Vancouver Greenroom are important to me. But…our relationship has to change. And I want us to grow together, not apart.

Starting in November, this blog feature, Vancouver Greenroom, will disappear, and I’ll start pouring all of its content—which is oriented towards theatre makers as well as theatregoers—into my newsletter.

You can subscribe to that newsletter right here. (Just keep saying yes: it’s what has made us so good together so far.)

Like us, the newsletter is free. It’s fun. And—I’m not going to say whether this is like us or not—but it only comes once a week. [Read more…]