Archives for June 2021

New-Fangled Fibs: I like ’em old-fangled

Publicity photo for New-Fangled Fibs

Paul Strickland is a charming guy, but he needs to find his groove in this electronic format for that to come across.

The most interesting thing about watching New-Fangled Fibs: Tall Tales by Paul Strickland is trying to figure out why it doesn’t work.

It’s not like Strickland, who specializes in tall tales, isn’t a talented guy. His show, Ain’t True and Uncle False, which I saw at the Vancouver Fringe in 2017, is one of the highlights of my long theatregoing career.

And, even in New-Fangled Fibs, there are moments of charm. In the story “Chansonaille, Louisiana”, for instance, locals trap “tune bugs” in jars: every bug sings its own note and the goal is to catch a quartet that harmonizes in a major key — not a minor key because that’s unlucky.

So what gives? [Read more…]

Cock: I like it

Publicity photo for Mike Bartlett's play Cock

Three smart actors: Nathan Witte, Troy Mundle, and Lee Tomaschefski (Screen grab)

Let’s talk about sex. That’s what Cock is all about — well sex, love, and identity.

In Mike Bartlett’s Olivier Award-winning script from 2009, John has left his male lover M when he meets W and has sex with a woman for the first time. He thinks W’s vagina is “amazing” and he falls for her — sort of. John wants to get back together with M, but he also wants to stay with W. So the three of them have dinner together to hash it out — the sort of thing that happens all the time in the theatre and almost never in real life.

Stylistically, the cool, cool thing about Cock is that the action all spills out in a circular playing area — like a cockfighting ring. Other than the circle, there’s no set, there are no props, and, although the characters serve and consume food and drinks, there’s no mime. This keeps the focus on the “cockfights” — the headliner is the throwdown between M and W — on the war of words. [Read more…]

The Here and This and Now: Is that all there is?

promo photo for The Here and This and Now (United Players production)

Pharmaceutical sales reps gettin’ crazy (Photo of Evangela Kepinski, Jessica Wong, Ishan Sandhu, and Matt Loop by Doug Williams)

Skip to the epilogue: the last five minutes of this production are by far the best.

There are two earlier sections. Each unit is distinct.

In Part 1, we witness a training session in which a sales manager named Niall coaches three pharmaceutical reps on how to make a sales pitch for a questionable liver-spot treatment. Theatrically, there are a passel of problems here. Number 1: the pitch is ridiculously long and its manipulativeness is so transparent that nobody in their right mind would fall for it. Number 2: The pitch is repeated, with slight variations, four times. Everybody onstage gets a crack at it. Time threatens to go backwards. Number 3: The criticism of big pharma in particular and sales in general is simplistic.

Two of the sales reps also have a philosophical discussion of sorts in Part 1. Robbie, who’s been with the company for a while, keeps saying that, in life, nothing changes, things never get any better: “I just don’t think anything makes much of a difference.” Gemma, who’s new and who’s falling for Robbie, offers counterarguments: She invites Robbie to imagine the impact of having a baby, for instance. Then Robbie repeats himself and the two of them go in circles.

Fortunately, both Ishan Sandhu (Robbie) and Jessica Wong (Gemma) deliver appealing performances. Sandhu’s Robbie is playful and responsive. Wong’s performance as Gemma is grounded and honest — persuasively straightforward. She also has a velvety voice. [Read more…]

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