promo image for Ha Ha Da VinciMy bet is that artists are more likely to get away with this kind of nonsense on the fringe circuit, where audiences are more predisposed to giving it a pass as “artsy”. But Ha Ha Da Vinci is just very badly made. Phina Pipia, who wrote and performs this piece, plays a grad student named Luca who happens upon the plans for a time machine invented by Leonardo Da Vinci and his collaborator, magician Luca Pacioli. As soon as present-day Luca opens the plan, she is transported to Renaissance Italy, where the voice of Da Vinci himself — heard over a radio — tells her that the time machine works for going back in time (that’s how Pacioli disappeared), but nobody knows how to make it move forward. I’m going to give away the big reveal: Luca figures out that music allows us to move forward through time, so she plays her tuba and off she goes. That’s it. That’s the end. At the performance I attended, the audience was clearly surprised the show was over. That’s because nothing had happened — at least nothing that makes any narrative or intuitive sense. Pipia dances uninteresting choreography at a proficient level, she plays her guitar and sings forgettable songs, she does one okay magic trick, and she plays the squares on her bedspread as if the bedspread were a musical instrument. (Think Big.) But nothing holds together. There’s no narrative to speak of, no sense of stakes or a meaningful struggle to overcome obstacles. There is no internal logic in Ha Ha Da Vinci and zero sense of accumulation. The idea of the lost Pacioli is raised but never addressed. Why is there a radio in Renaissance Italy? Writer/performer Pipia is showing off — and, charmingly, she seems to be having an excellent time — but there’s very little in it for the rest of us.

At the Vancouver Fringe Festival. Remaining performances at Studio 16: September 11, 7:00 pm; September 13, 4:45 pm; September 15, 3:10 pm; September 16, 9:40 pm (ASL); September 18 (8:15 pm). Tickets

About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.


  1. Gail Haddad says:

    I loved the show! It was a wildly creative piece by a multi talented performer ,totally unconventional, gentle and warm. I agree the end was odd but i didn’t care that there was no great denouement.

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