Archives for May 2023

Happy Valley: Great destination, but getting there involves a major detour

publicity photo for Happy Valley

Derek Chan in Happy Valley (Photo by Pedro Augusto Meza)

I won’t give away the confession in Derek Chan’s Happy Valley, but it’s the best part of the script.

In this interdisciplinary solo, Chan sings and recites poetry — often in Cantonese with English surtitles. We also get Cantonese surtitles.

Chan grew up in Hong Kong when it was still a British colony and he refers to the British handover of the territory to China in 1997 as The Apocalypse. In various artistic forms, he tells us that he lost the beloved site of his childhood: he can never go home again and he is both furious and sorrowful. He rails against the feckless British colonizers and the social, political, and criminal abuses of the current Communist overlords. Happy Valley is an agonized expression of dislocation. The song “Swallow” begins, “How much shit can a motherfucker swallow/Before they have to spit?” [Read more…]

First Métis Man of Odesa: Fall in love with it

publicity photo for First Métis Man of Odesa

Yeah, they’re pretty cute. (Photo of Matthew MacKenzie and Mariya Khomutova by Nastya Gooz)

First Métis Man of Odesa is such compelling — and funny — storytelling. It’s charmingly performed, and exquisitely directed and produced. I hope The Cultch and Punctuate! Theatre can find pull quotes in those two sentences to use in their advertising because I want to help as many people as possible to see this show.

Written and performed by Métis playwright Matthew MacKenzie and Ukrainian actor Mariya Khomutova, First Métis Man of Odesa is, very importantly, their story. It matters a lot that they’re playing themselves, that we’re witnessing concrete, physical testimony. [Read more…]

Unexpecting: You’ve been warned

Unexpecting publicity photo. Zee Zee Theatre

Rahat Saini and Jessica Heafey in Carmen Alatorre’s costumes on Lachlin Johnston’s set
(Photo by Tina Krueger Kalic)

I hated this show so much that thinking about writing this review gave me a stomach ache. I don’t want to be cruel but, if I’m not frank, I’m not doing my job.

I first encountered playwright Bronwyn Carradine’s Unexpecting in early 2021 when it was an audio play produced by the Arts Club. Back then, I wrote that the script “skips along at a snappy sitcom pace”, but complained that “the piling on of obstacles often feels arbitrary and insubstantial.” Having gone through a couple of workshops since then — presumably with Zee Zee Theatre, the company producing this fully staged version — the script is now massively worse. And it’s been very badly directed by Cameron Mackenzie.

Within that, there are a couple of strong performances and Lachlan Johnston’s set is exciting.

Let’s get into it.

[Read more…]

The Legend of Georgia McBride: Toot

publicity photo for The Legend of Georgia McBride

Do we care about these two? Yep. Monice Peters as Jo and Jacob Woike as Casey.
(Photo by Moonrider Productions)

The script is mixed up and the production is inconsistent, but this show is fun — and that counts for a lot.

In The Legend of Georgia McBride, playwright Matthew López tells the story of an Elvis impersonator named Casey who’s struggling — and failing — to make a living in a little club on the Florida panhandle. Casey’s wife Jo is newly pregnant and they’ve missed their rent payments two months in a row. So the stakes are about as high as in The Perils of Pauline. But, when one of the queens in the two-person drag duo that’s supposed to replace him passes out drunk and can’t go on, Casey slips into a pair of heels, goes onstage as an instant drag artist, and starts to accumulate a lucrative following.

To be clear, Casey’s success in this show-must-go-on scenario isn’t remotely plausible, but it is good natured. And the next section, in which the script backs up and Casey’s mentor, an older queen named Tracy, works with him on building his skills and persona, is some kind of wonderful.

It’s wonderful because the script’s set-up and the affability of the performers unleash a tidal wave of good will from the audience. As written by López and fulsomely embodied by actor Jacob Woike, Casey is a sweet doofus, an irresponsible optimist who loves his wife with every cell of his being and picks up his guitar to sing her the song he wrote for her.

In a very smart move, López has allowed us to witness Casey’s transformation from the underwear up — starting with his tighty whities, and adding stockings, hip pads, cinching, and fake boobs. The process feels intimate. And, as Casey starts to develop more skills, glamour — and confidence — in a series of short scenes that alternate backstage prep and onstage performance, we are pulling for the guy. The night I was there, by the time Casey had acquired his drag name, Georgia McBride, and worked his Elvis swivel into sassy, girlishness, the audience was going wild. I knew I was being manipulated. I still had goosebumps.

[Read more…]

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