Archives for April 2018

Nine Dragons: a whodunnit in which you care who did it

Playing a police officer named Tommy Lan, John Ng sits at a desk in the Kowloon police station.

In Nine Dragons, John Ng plays Tommy Lam, a sergeant frustrated with the racism of Kowloon’s police force.

Much to the credit of playwright Jovanni Sy, Nine Dragons is a rewarding thriller.

Riffing on film noir, Sy sets the action in the Kowloon neighbourhood of Hong Kong in the 1920s. A character that the press calls the Kowloon Ripper is murdering women, then chopping off their hands and cutting out their tongues. The Ripper’s crimes haven’t been getting a lot of attention—but then he murders a white woman.

Because it’s set in colonial Kowloon, Nine Dragons is saturated with issues of race and identity. Tommy Lam is the best detective on the police force but, because he’s Chinese, he has never made it past the rank of sergeant. Tommy has reasons of his own for wanting to get his hands on the Kowloon Ripper but his white his bosses hesitate to let him loose, partly because Tommy’s prime suspect is Victor Fung, scion of one of the area’s most powerful Chinese families. [Read more…]

Misery: more like a bad cold

Playing Annie, Lucia Frangione attacks Andrew McNee's Paul with a sledgehammer in Misery.

Despite internally consistent performances from Andrew McNee and Lucia Frangione, the Arts Club’s production of Misery fails to hit home(Photo by David Cooper)

The Arts Club’s production of Misery is a journey straight to heck and back.

It’s not scary, which is a flaw in a thriller.

William Goldman, who wrote the play, also penned the screenplay for the1990 movie. Both are based on a book by Stephen King. In the story, a romance novelist named Paul Sheldon has just finished a more artistically ambitious—possibly pretentious—manuscript, when his car careens off the side of a mountain during a Colorado snowstorm. Suffering a dislocated shoulder and severely broken legs, he is rescued by Annie Wilkes, a former nurse, who takes him back to her house in the woods, tends to his injuries, and declares herself his number-one fan.

Annie promises to get Paul to a hospital the moment the roads clear, but it soon becomes apparent that she’s obsessed and she plans to keep him captive. When Annie discovers that Paul has killed off her favourite character, she becomes enraged—and psychotically sadistic. A whole lot of the “entertainment” in Misery derives from the suffering that she inflicts on Paul. [Read more…]

Mr. Burns, a post-electric play: surprising, funny, and deep

"Cape Feare", and episode of The Simpsons, becomes an opera in Mr. Burns, a post-electric play.

Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, reinvents The Simpsons—and gets to the heart of storytelling.

WTF is one of my favourite responses at the theatre. I had it a lot while watching Mr. Burns, a post-electric play.

Part of the pleasure of watching Mr. Burns is that the three acts are so different that you have to re-orient yourself after each of the intermissions. If you want to preserve that sense of bafflement and discovery for yourself, don’t read too much more of this review, just buy your tickets now. I highly recommend this show.

If you’re still reading, I’ll try not to give too much away.

Playwright Anne Washburn sets Act 1 of Mr. Burns in a post-apocalyptic near future. An unspecified disaster has set off a chain of events that involved the meltdown of nuclear power plants. We’re with a small group of survivors who are sitting around a campfire and trying to bring reassuring order back to their lives by reconstructing “Cape Feare”, an episode from The Simpsons. [Read more…]

Once on This Island: Vote that guy off

Ti Moune (Brianna Clark) tends to Daniel (Michael Gnansounou) in Once on This Island.

Ti Moune (Brianna Clark) tends to Daniel (Michael Gnansounou) in Once on This Island.

In Once on This Island, love triumphs—supposedly. It’s really sexism that wins.

If you want to be surprised by the story, don’t read any further; to make my point, I’m going to give away the plot.

In this musical, which premiered on Broadway in 1990 and which is currently enjoying a wildly successful Broadway revival, an island in the French Antilles is divided into two groups: poor, dark-skinned people and a wealthy elite whose ancestry includes white French colonialists.

A peasant girl named Ti Moune falls in love with a rich kid named Daniel Beauxhomme. When Daniel crashes his car on her side of the island, Ti Moune saves his life by nursing him—and by making a deal with Death. There are gods on the island and one of them, Papa Ge, is a Caribbean version of the Grim Reaper. Ti Moune offers Papa Ge her own life in exchange for Daniel’s. It takes a while for Papa Ge to collect. [Read more…]