The Great Leap: hobbled by a slight script

The Arts Club Theatre is presenting The Great Leap by Lauren Yee.

Milton Lim’s performance and Chimerik’s projections are two of the best things about The Great Leap. (Photo by Pink Monkey Studios)

This script’s heart doesn’t start pumping until well in to Act 2. Until then, it’s on the artificial life support of a visually dynamic production. [Read more…]

The Sea floated my boat — intermittently

The Slamming Door Collective is presenting Edward Bond's The Sea at the Jericho Arts Centre.

Slamming Door delivers a stylish production of Edward Bond’s eccentric script. (Photo of Cheyenne Mabberley and Genevieve Fleming by Erin Aberle-Palm)

Like a kid who has had the wrong kind of home schooling, Edward Bond’s The Sea is wildly creative—and undisciplined. It takes you to a refreshingly original imaginative world but then insists that you linger too long in some of the duller corners. [Read more…]

Dead People’s Things: dump ’em

Zee Zee Theatre is presenting Dave Deveau's Dead People's Things at Studio 16.

Eileen Barrett and Meghan Chenovsky at the end of Dead People’s Things, which is when things get more interesting.
(Photo by Tina Krueger Kulic)

This play contains one moderately interesting idea. It comes very near the end of the 95-minute runtime. It’s a long wait.

In Dave Deveau’s new script, Dead People’s Things, a young woman named Phyllis has inherited a house from her estranged aunt, who was a hoarder. When Phyllis shows up at the property, Beatrice, an older woman who was the aunt’s neighbour and best friend, greets her with the keys—and undisguised hostility. [Read more…]

Bed & Breakfast: Don’t spend the night

The Arts Club is presenting Bed & Breakfast at the Granville Island Stage.

Five shades of grey: Mark Crawford and Paul Dunn wear Dana Osborne’s costumes on her set. (Photo by Moonrider Productions)

The title is a spoiler.

The show is called Bed & Breakfast for Christ’s sake so, when gay couple Brett and Drew spend their first half hour onstage together dithering about whether or they’re going to open a B&B, I felt like screaming, “Haven’t you read the program? Haven’t you seen the posters? Get on it with it!” [Read more…]

Cherry Docs: steel-toed and heavy-handed

Cave Canem is presenting Cherry Docs at Pacific Theatre.

John Voth and Kenton Klassen paper over some script issues in the legal drama Cherry Docs. (Photo by Jason Benson)


Guest review by David Johnston

It’s a good production and, when the script occasionally gets out of its own way, it becomes great.

In Cave Canem’s latest outing, neo-Nazi skinhead Mike (Kenton Klassen) has stomped a Hindu man to death; liberal Jewish lawyer Danny (John Voth) is assigned as his counsel. They obviously don’t like each other, but Mike needs Danny to save him from a lengthy prison sentence and Danny needs Mike to… honestly, Danny’s initial impulse for taking the case is never quite clarified. As a challenge? An obsession? Danny needs Mike because if Danny didn’t need Mike, there’d be no show. Get on board.

What follows is … not exactly a legal procedural, although Cherry Docs dresses up in a procedural jumpsuit and struts around for a while. That’s actually a good thing; law dramas have become ridonkulously prolific since the play’s 1998 debut, so it’s swell that this isn’t merely the rote story of an amateur lawyer defending a client he hates. Sure, David Gow’s script tells that story, but it’s in the background of the real plot.

This isn’t How To Acquit A Skinhead 101. The murder victim is left nameless (a deeply uncomfortable decision) and the legal machinations are presented as an afterthought, so the show can focus on the feelings of two straight white men. (Incidentally, this is the point where Cherry Docs feels most dated; an odd-couple legal drama written today would likely find slightly more diverse starting positions for its two protagonists.) [Read more…]

The Tashme Project: The Living Archives – The truth is in the details

The Firehall Arts Centre is presenting The Tashme Project: The Living Archives at the Firehall Arts Centre.

Julie Tamako Manning and Matt Miwa extend a hand to the past in The Tashme Project.

The Tashme Project: The Living Archives is an elegantly simple, moving, and important piece of theatre.

Julie Tamako Manning and Matt Miwa, who created and perform the show, each have one Japanese parent and, when they met while working at the National Arts Centre a few years ago, they discovered that they have something else in common: members of both of their families were imprisoned at Tashme, the Japanese internment camp that was set up near Hope during WWII. But, like many third- and fourth-generation Japanese Canadians, the artists knew very little about that history.

For The Tashme Project, they interviewed the second generation, the Nisei, who were kids during the internment and are now elderly. The Nisei rarely talk about the internment. When asked to speak for this project, however, they spilled. [Read more…]

New Cackle Sisters: Kitchen Chicken—homemade okayness

The Cultch is presenting New Cackle Sisters: Kitchen Chicken at the York.

The sing! They peel potatoes! (Photo by Charles Frédérick Ouellet)

New Cackle Sisters: Kitchen Chicken is inventive but not dazzling, an intermittently engaging form of theatrical folk art.

In the show, a cast of six prepares a meal of chicken and mashed potatoes as well as appetizers—all while performing popular American songs from the 30s. The music involves a lot of yodeling and harmonies from the two female performers, who are billed as the New Cackle Sisters. And the instrumentation includes everything from kazoos to a tuba and percussion achieved by slapping raw poultry.

The meal prep is just as eccentric. When the New Cackle Sisters peel the potatoes, for instance, one of them skewers a potato with a hand-held drill, then turns it on, rotating the potato at speed while the other runs a peeler along it as if she were working a lathe. Potato skin and chunks of potato go flying. [Read more…]

Chimerica: how many hours do you have to spare?

United Players is presenting Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica at the Jericho Arts Centre.

Playing a young revolutionary couple, Olivia Poon and Angus Yam provide some of the most human moments in Chimerica. (Photo by Nancy Caldwell)

I thought it was never going to end. Then, after two hours, the lights finally came up—but it was only intermission. We had another hour and a half to go.

Playwright Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica is about the current murky codependence between China and the States. To explore it, she has invented a character named Joe Schofield, a New Yorker whom she credits with taking the famous photograph of the lone protester standing in front of tanks in Tienanmen Square in 1989. Joe was 18. Now it’s 23 years later and Joe is searching for the guy he calls Tank Man. He says he’s doing it because he wants to celebrate Tank Man’s heroism in an age of equivocation, but he also needs to revive his flagging career—and perhaps his sense of moral purpose.

Flying to Beijing, Joe meets Tessa Kendrick, a British market researcher. She’s afraid of flying. He holds her hand. But she’s also tough so, you know: sparks.

Joe’s friend Zhang Lin, who lives in Beijing, is a former Tienanmen protester and current uneasy pragmatist. He pays lip service to accommodating the damage caused by China’s economic “miracle”—including the lethal smog that the Communist Party passes off as weather— but his wife, who was killed in the massacre, keeps appearing in his fridge like a fragment of the conscience he’s put on ice.

Joe’s search for Tank Man ensnares everybody in a convoluted, sometimes bloody detective story that weaves its way through New York’s boroughs—slowly. [Read more…]

The Orchard (After Chekhov): hobbled by imitation

Loveleen comforts Kesur in Sarena Parmar's The Orchard (After Chekhov)

The Orchard (After Chekhov) is at its best when it’s quiet—like in this exchange between actors Parm Soor and Laara Sadiq. (Photo by David Cooper)


There are good bits, but overall it’s a mess. And the primary faults are in the writing and direction.

In The Orchard (After Chekhov), Sarena Parmar, who grew up in Kelowna, resets Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard in the Okanagan in 1974. The central characters are no longer aristocratic Russian landowners; they are South Asian-Canadian farmers, Sikhs from the Punjab.

It’s a clumsy fit. [Read more…]

A Vista: a trip


Fight With a Stick is presenting A Vista at the Massey Theatre

Mark Rothko didn’t paint the backdrops for A Vista, but it kind of feels like he did. (This is Untitled, 1960)

I rarely have such exhilarating aesthetic experiences at the theatre.

A Vista consists of three parts: “Full Drops”, which I saw last night; “Portals”, which is playing tonight (March 21), and “Legs” (March 22). You don’t have to see one to appreciate the others.

Hunker down because this is going to sound dull at first. In “Full Drops”, a crew lays out 15 folded painted backdrops on the huge stage of the Massey Theatre, then they tie them to steel pipes called battens and raise them. The rest of the performance consists of the slow rearrangement of these drops in relation to one another: they go up and down in different sequences. It takes about two hours—and it’s a fucking trip. (If you don’t believe me, ask the three little boys who were also at the show last night. You get to move around to different viewing areas during these performances and those kids were scuttling about as eagerly as I was—because we were all on an adventure.) [Read more…]

Sign up—free!—

YEAH, THIS IS ANNOYING. But my theatre newsletter is fun!

Sign up and get curated international coverage + local reviews every Thursday!