Archives for February 2019

The Shoplifters: return it

The Arts Club is producing Morris Panych's new play The Shoplifters.

Patti Allan gives you something to watch in The Shoplifters (Photo by David Cooper)

Morris Panych’s The Shoplifters is so slight that it almost doesn’t exist—although it does contain the beginning of an idea. That idea is that raw capitalism is unjust.

Dom, a zealous security guard who’s training in a Superstore kind of place, apprehends a savvy old crook named Alma, who has a choice cut of steak shoved up her skirt. He has also caught Alma’s younger pal Phyllis shoplifting and he’s feeling pretty proud of himself. But Otto, the guard who’s training Dom, takes a larger view: he encourages Dom to ask himself, “Who are the real thieves?” [Read more…]

The Amish Project—without the Amish

Dark Glass Theatre is presenting Jessica Dickey's The Amish Project at The Nest.

Kelsey Krogman plays Carol in The Amish Project.

The Amish Project is a sentimental fictionalization of a tragedy.

In 2006, a shooter entered a school in the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He held ten girls hostage and shot eight of them, killing five. The Amish responded with forgiveness, reaching out to the shooter’s wife and three children and establishing a charitable fund for the family.

That’s powerful source material, but playwright Jessica Dickey fails to do it justice.

According to director Angela Konrad’s program notes, Dickey didn’t interview any of the people directly affected by the Nickel Mines shooting. That’s too bad because, if she had, she might have created a more resonant script.

Instead, Dickey contents herself with superficial poetics. The play’s actors repeat the headline “Man enters Amish schoolhouse and opens fire” so often that it quickly moves from being heavy-handed to being tedious. In an effort to present innocence, Dickey has a young character named Velda mime drawing endless stick figures. And Velda’s older sister Anna floats about as a ghost—like a refugee from Our Town— tenderly observing her parents and community.

None of this lands. None of it has the ring of harsh truth or genuine beauty. It’s just made up. [Read more…]

Revisor: conceptually seductive, emotionally not so much

Kidd Pivot is presenting Revisor at the Vancouver Playhouse.

The guy is on fire: Doug Letheren as the Deputy. (Photo by Michael Slobodian. Costume by Nancy Bryant)




I was dazzled by the skill, intellectually intrigued, and emotionally and viscerally removed.

With Revisor, writer Jonathon Young and choreographer Crystal Pite sink deep into Nikolai Gogol’s play, which is best known as The Inspector General.

Gogol’s 1842 script was inspired by a Russian story that might be true. When the Deputy (or Mayor) of a small town gets a tip that a government inspector is about to arrive incognito, the Deputy and his fellow officials madly scramble to cover up their corruption and misdeeds. When the bureaucrats mistake a minor civil servant for the inspector, the clerk recognizes their error, happily accepts their bribes—and plots to expose them.

Revisor employs two main stylistic modes. In the first, the performers lip sync to recordings of actors speaking Young’s dialogue, while embodying the characters with extreme expressionistic movement. It’s kind of like a drag version of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. [Read more…]

Yoga Play: steady that pose

The Gateway Theatre is presenting Dipika Guha's Yoga Play.

Christine Quintana and Chirag Naik in Yoga Play (Photo: Gateway Theatre)


If only it had a middle. Yoga Play has an enticing beginning and a meaningful conclusion. But, in between, it gets lost in low-stakes plotting.

In Yoga Play, American writer Dipika Guha takes aim at the commercialization of an ancient ascetic practice. Think Lululemon, that’s what Guha does: she invents a Lululemon-like company called Jojomon and, right off the top, she tosses in a reference to Lululemon founder Chip Wilson, who tried to say that some of his company’s yoga pants became transparent only because the thighs of the women wearing them were too big.

The large and small details of Guha’s writing are effervescent in their inventiveness. A guy named John, who owns Jojomon, calls his dog Sappho. And Jojomon has just come out with a new fabric that features the slow release of organic lavender—and was inspired by Marie Kondo. [Read more…]

Much Ado About Nothing: It’s about more than this

Classic Chic Productions is presenting Much Ado About Nothing at The Cultch

Benedick (Corina Akeson) kneels in front of his love Beatrice (Christina Wells Campbell)

A director needs to create a coherent world for a production. That’s their primary job. But Rebecca Patterson’s take on Much Ado About Nothing is all over the place.

Much Ado is an interesting choice for Classic Chic Productions, which mounts all-female shows. The most compelling interpretations of Much Adothat I’ve seen have emphasized the gender divisions in the play. Men are soldiers and women are chattel. Both positions are dangerous and both depend on the public perception of honour, which is a fragile commodity. Within this context, the banter between Beatrice and Benedick, the central lovers, can be seen as a form of self-defence. [Read more…]

True Crime: whydoit whodunnit

The Arts Club and Crow's Theatre are presenting True Crime at the BMO Stage.

True Crime looks cool. (Photo of Torquil Campbell by Dahlia Katz. Design by Remington North)



The animating argument of True Crime is that audience members are complicit in a moral transgression. I don’t buy it. So, philosophically, the show is boring to me. But True Crime does deliver beautifully worked surfaces.

Torquil Campbell, who performs the solo text, created it with director Chris Abraham in collaboration with composer Julian Brown. It centers on Campbell’s fascination with Christian Gerhartsreiter, a con man and impostor who was convicted of both kidnapping and murder and is now incarcerated in Ironwood State Prison. [Read more…]

Lawsuit Decision: $0.00

Colin Thomas sued The Georgia Straight newspaper for wrongful dismissal.
On Thursday, January 31, Judge Winston Lee released his decision regarding the lawsuit I filed in small claims court against The Georgia Straight.

Judge Lee ruled that, in his view, I was not a dependent contractor at The Straight—which means that I was not in an employee-like relationship with the paper—and that I am, therefor, not entitled to compensation for The Straight having terminated its 28.5-year relationship with me as a theatre critic, which they did without notice in September of 2016.   [Read more…]

Cabaret: so many spectacular elements

Paige Fraser is playing the Emcee in Studio 58's production of Cabaret.

(Photo of Paige Fraser by David Cooper)

Although it doesn’t have enough emotional depth, this Cabaret is dazzling in many ways.

Cabaret is about Clifford Bradshaw, a young American novelist who arrives in Berlin on New Year’s Eve, 1931. Although he’s had sex with men and is conflicted about his orientation, he quickly falls into an affair with Sally Bowles, a British singer who works at the Kit Kat Club. Unlike the 1972 movie, the stage musical also contains a subplot about a romance between Cliff’s landlady Fraülein Schneider and a Jewish tenant named Schultz.

In his directorial debut, Josh Epstein gleefully stuffs Studio 58 with so much action and imagery—with so many theatrical ideas—it’s like he’s fisting the place (and the place is digging it.) Ten minutes before the show had even started, I was already getting goosebumps of delight. The boys and girls of the Kit Kat Club were parading around in the sexy, gender-screwing costumes provided by Amy McDougall. (I really want a pair of those rhinestoned short shorts.) And I love the little pre-show shows that Epstein has thrown in: a striptease performed by a voluptuous nurse, and a boxing match between a couple of flexing young studs. [Read more…]

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