Archives for March 2022

How the World Began — and how it stalled

Publicity photo for How the World Began

Here’s a young actor to watch: Even Rein.
Meghan Gardiner is in the foreground.
(Photo by Diamond’s Edge Photography)

It’s kind of like a horror movie with an obvious out — like “Why don’t they just call the cops?”

In her 2011 script How the World Began, Catherine Trieschmann sets up an artificial conflict between the scientific and the religious. Susan has recently arrived in Plainview, Kansas, to teach biochemistry at the local high school. At first, she claims that her reasons for coming are altruistic: she wants to help out because a tornado has recently leveled the town and left 17 dead. But it soon emerges that she’s also there for more pressing practical reasons: she’s about to become a single mom, and this job offers both quick teaching certification and health insurance.

Coming from New York, though, Susan is politically and culturally blue — and Plainview is not. [Read more…]

A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney … is a long title

publicity shot for an A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney

Paul Herbert, Chelsea MacDonald, and Brian Parkinson (Photo by Nancy Caldwell)

There are several layers of experimentation going on here. Some of them work. A couple work splendidly.

Playwright Lucas Hnath really does present A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney as a public reading. Four actors file onstage, carrying their screenplays in black binders, and sit at a long table. “I’m Walt Disney,” one of them says. “This is a screenplay I wrote. It’s about me.”

Talk about a thesis statement: A Public Reading is an examination of megalomania. [Read more…]

Made in Italy: Do they take returns?

publicity photo for Made in Italy

Farren Timoteo in a fun costume by Cindy Wiebe (Photo by Moonrider Productions)

I was sitting in the theatre writing notes about the end of civilization. I mean, I understand the value of distraction, but does it have to be this mindless, this reactionary?

I’m not saying there isn’t skill involved in this production of Made in Italy. Farren Timoteo, who wrote and performs the solo show, is a talented guy. [Read more…]

Men Express Their Feelings — for your delight and edification

publicity photo for Men Express Their Feelings

Munish Sharma, Ishan Sandhu, and Quinn Churchill in a replay (Photo by Tina Krueger Kulic)

I’m having an identity crisis. If Vancouver companies don’t stop producing such good shows, I’m going to lose my reputation for being a hard ass.

Zee Zee Theatre’s production of Sunny Drake’s Men Express Their Feelings is a terrific ride.

It’s about two father/son pairs. The high-school-aged boys are on the same hockey team but, after one of their games, Mr. Bacon punched Mr. Sharma in the nose. That led to Ms. Skinner, who has some kind of authority in the league, laying down the law: either all four of them participate in a sharing circle — in their home arena’s locker room — or the boys won’t be back on the ice in time for the following week’s game (and a big scout from the majors is coming to that). [Read more…]

Bunny: Hop to it. (Sorry, but you really should.)

publicity photo for Bunny

Emma Slipp is a star. (Photo: Emily Cooper)

Because standing up for everything makes standing ovations meaningless, I hardly ever give them. But I was on my feet at the end of Bunny before I knew it — and I was hollering, “Brava! Brava! Brava!” I was so moved by this play and production. And I am so proud of actor Emma Slipp.

A girl-then-woman named Sorrel is at the centre of Hannah Moscovitch’s script. (Sorrel’s best friend nicknames her Bunny.) The play is about Sorrel’s sexual desire, her struggle to come to terms with a hunger that society keeps telling her is inappropriate in a woman. I’m so glad that Moscovitch is celebrating female lust — and I’ve got to say that, as a queer man, much of that struggle is immediately emotionally available. [Read more…]

bad eggs: good try

publicity shot for bad eggs

Sarah Roa in the poster art for bad eggs

Unladylike co., which is producing bad eggs, is a new, young, feminist company. I’m sympathetic on all these fronts — and I can’t recommend this production.

Written by Jessica Hood, bad eggs, which is being presented online, plucks Persephone and Hades from their myth and Eve from hers, then drops them into a shared contemporary story.

Some of the writing is mildly witty. Rather than abducting Persephone and spiriting her off to the underworld, Hades sweeps her up in a three-day courtship and takes her home to his apartment over the funeral parlour where he works. In the original Persephone myth, her mom, Demeter, doesn’t know about the abduction and searches for her daughter relentlessly. In this retelling, Eve is Persephone’s mother and she’s an emotionally chilly fertility doctor.

Some of Hood’s set-up is resonant. Rather than being trapped in a literal underworld/hell, the twenty-first century Perspehone is trapped by agoraphobia: panic attacks make it scary for her to leave the apartment.

And thematically, bad eggs makes sense. The plot turns on Persephone’s attempts to get pregnant. The mythic Persephone is associated with spring and fertility, but this Persephone’s desire to get pregnant is to please Hades — and that seems to be the point: our new Persephone defines herself in terms of the needs of others, Hades’ need for a submissive wife and Eve’s for an obediently ambitious daughter.

All of this is fine, as far as it goes, but it takes forever for Persephone to exhibit any real agency and that’s a big problem. [Read more…]

Clean/Espejos: One of the best shows in years

publicity photo for Clean/Espejos

Alexandra Lainfiesta and Genevieve Fleming (Photo by David Markwei)

Clean/Espejos is so good that I’m worried about not doing being able to do it justice in this review.

The script — written by Christine Quintana with translation and adaptation by Paula Zelaya-Cervantes — is an impressively mature work of art that its two characters deliver in Spanish and English in what are, for the most part, overlapping monologues.

Adriana is a floor manager at the Paradise resort in Cancun. Vancouverite Sarah is there for her younger sister Maddy’s destination wedding. When she was 16, Adriana escaped her small town — and family trauma — to work in Cancun. She keeps busy to avoid those memories. When Sarah is overwhelmed, she drinks: shortly after we meet her, we watch her racing against “the blackout countdown”, trying to get to her room before she passes out in the hallway. [Read more…]

Ominous Sounds at the River Crossing: There are no bridges

publicity photo for Ominous Sounds by Jason Sherman

Monice Peter, Angela Chu, and Alex Poch-Goldin (Photo by Matt Reznek)

Especially if you’re over 50, don’t bother with this play; you don’t have that much good time left.

Jason Sherman’s new script Ominous Sounds at the River Crossing; or, Another Fucking Dinner Party Play is funny — but only for about the first ten minutes. After that, there’s another hour and 45 to go — without a break — and the chairs at Performance Works turn into torture racks. (Seriously. I could barely ride my bike home.)

So, if you’ve already bought tickets, enjoy that opening sequence! Six actors enter the stage tentatively. Everybody’s afraid to speak and we soon understand why: they all terrified of causing offence. They can’t decide how to determine what pronouns to use or how to talk about race — or not talk about it. They can’t even decide if they should take a vote on whether they should take a vote.

The characters are taking their absurd situation seriously and, theatrically, that tension works. Besides, their anxiety is recognizable: the shifting cultural landscape can be unnerving, especially to those of us who have been used to barging about oblivious to our privilege. And Sherman gives his satire an existentialist boost: with a nod to Jean-Paul Sartre, the actors have entered the stage but there is no exit.

Then the script goes off a cliff: it gets ham-fisted — and the evening never recovers. [Read more…]

Little Red Warrior and His Lawyer: Finding the groove


publicity photo for Little Red Warrior and His Lawyer

Little Red (Sam Bob) and Desdemona (Luisa Jojic) get to know each other. (Photo by Emily Cooper)

At first, I was not in the groove of Little Red Warrior and His Lawyer — and I was content to think, “Okay, maybe this wasn’t written for me.” Other people were laughing up a storm, including the row of Indigenous folks in front of me — so maybe I just wasn’t getting it. But Little Red Warrior and His Lawyer is so relentlessly irreverent and surprising that it wasn’t long before I succumbed. For the majority of the show, I was grinning my face off. [Read more…]

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