Gather: Stories in Nature — room to grow

publicity photo for Gather: Stories in Nature

Sharing stories outside is a good idea.
(Photo of Shayna Jones and Cameron Peal by Kathryn Nickford)

Maybe the best way to see these two short scripts is as seedlings.

In Gather: Stories in Nature, Shayna Jones and Cameron Peal both perform solo plays they’ve written about their relationships to the earth. In a (mostly) productive decision, their work is being presented beneath the trees in Queen Elizabeth Park.

Jones’s work is currently the sturdier of the two. It’s about a woman named Miriam who’s struggling in an oppressive marriage to a guy named Clinton. Early on, Clinton complains that Miriam is getting too independent: “That’s what I get for letting you discover yourself.” [Read more…]

Best of Enemies: worth befriending

Pacific Theatre is presenting Best of Enemies.

There’s stillness in Celia Aloma’s performance. Don’t let that lull you. (Photo by Diamond’s Edge Photography)

Best of Enemies is a familiar and predictable story of a white man’s redemption, but it still matters — a great deal. And it’s true. [Read more…]

Gramma: this 75 minutes could age you

Pacific Theatre is presenting Maki Yi's play Gramma.

(Photo of Maki Yi by Emily Cooper)

Playwright and solo performer Maki Yi means well with Gramma and it starts off promisingly, but it quickly becomes very boring. [Read more…]

Frankenstein, Lost in Darkness: waiting to be found at Pacific Theatre

Pacific Theatre is presenting Frankenstein as a radio play.

Tariq Leslie as Frankenstein’s creature. 

Taking in Frankenstein: Lost in Darkness is very much like sitting around a fire on a winter evening and listening to a storyteller who is very good — if a little long-winded. [Read more…]

The Cake: bittersweet, delicious

Pacific Theatre is presenting The Cake.

Erla Faye Forsyth is one of the best actors in Vancouver. Whether or not you already know that, go see her in The Cake. (Photo by Javier Sotres)

I’m so grateful.

Pacific Theatre’s production of The Cake is coming at the right time — at the necessary time. With Alabama’s virtual ban on abortion just the latest in states’ restrictions of female autonomy, the Trump administration’s assault on LGBTQ rights, and the pursuit of similar agendas by Doug Ford in Ontario and Jason Kenney in Alberta, it’s frighteningly clear just how hostile populist conservatism is to anything other than cis white hetero male supremacy.

That’s why I’m so grateful for the tenderness of The Cake— not to mention its wit. [Read more…]

Jesus Freak (or Atheists are Assholes)

Pacific Theatre is presenting Peter Boychuk's Jesus Freak.

Pay particular attention to these two: Katharine Venour and Kaitlin Williams in Jesus Freak. (Photo by Jailin Laine Photography)

There are several plays going on at once in Jesus Freak. One of them is good.

In the story, a liberal family gathers for Easter weekend in their getaway home on one of the Gulf Islands. Susan and Alan’s adult daughter Clara, who is pursuing post-graduate studies in political science in Montreal, comes out as Christian. All hell breaks loose. [Read more…]

The Lion, the Witch, the Wardrobe—and some very good acting

Pacific Theatre is presenting Ron Reed's adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at Pacific Theatre.

John Both and Rebecca DeBoer in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Lighting by John Webber. (Photo by Ron Reed)

When you watch an actor transform from one character to another, it’s like watching an excellent magic trick. It’s alchemical: they were one thing and now they’re another. And there are many such transformations in Pacific Theatre’s skilled, innocent production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. [Read more…]

The Wolves: they shoot, they score, they stupefy

This is a guest review by David Johnston *

The Wolves by Sara DeLappe is currently playing at Pacific Theatre.

The Wolves cluster in a densely-concentrated ball of soccer skills and acting talent. (Photo by Ron Reed)

It begins by throwing the audience to the wolves.

We are thrust unceremoniously into a gaggle of chattering teenage girls in identical soccer jerseys. They’re stretching for a match, but that’s only discernable from context clues, as is everything in Pacific Theatre’s clever production.

They don’t get names — just jersey numbers. And the girls never line up and introduce themselves. This is extreme show-don’t-tell storytelling, full of cross-talk and freewheeling banter on everything from high school dating to the political situation in Cambodia.

It’s disorienting to newcomers. We know this because one of the girls is a newcomer, thus creating the first discernible group dynamic. At the outset, #46 (Paige Louter) becomes a quasi-protagonist as the others literally revolve around her. (This also gives Louter a chance to conduct a clinic in physical comedy with her silent attempts to follow the stretches.)

But gradually, as the pregame practices wear on, #46 — and, by extension, the audience — gets to know the team, and our initial conceptions about the squad members are challenged repeatedly. The Wolves demands that we become hyper-keen detectives: picking up on subtle costume differences, scanning for micro-expressions that are rarely spotlit. [Read more…]

Kim’s Convenience: shop here

Lee Shorten and James Yi are in Kim's Convenience at Pacific Theatre.

Director Kaitlin Williams’s blocking helps to make the relationships in Kim’s Convenience resonant. (Photo by Jalen Saip)

Ah, the appeal of an almost-racist joke! In Kim’s Convenience, the play that spawned the TV series, writer Ins Choi finds the sweet spot as he tickles the edges of transgression.

Appa (Dad) and Umma (Mom) run a convenience store in Regent’s Park, Toronto. Appa regards the store as his legacy and he wants his 30-year-old daughter Janet to take it over when he retires, but Janet considers herself a photographer. Appa hit Janet’s bother Jung so hard when he was 16 that Jung was hospitalized for several days. He left home and hasn’t spoken to Appa since, although he still sneaks conversations with Umma at their church. [Read more…]

Tolkien: less than mythic

Tolkien explores the friendship between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

Ian Farthing plays C.S. Lewis in Ron Reed’s new script, Tolkien.

Tolkien feels like academic Christian fanfiction. If that’s your thing, by all means go for it—all three acts and almost three hours of it.

In his new script, playwright Ron Reed explores the friendship between J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings) and C.S. Lewis (the Narnia fantasies).

Tolkien starts off promisingly. When they meet, both men are lonely. Lewis is a new faculty member at Oxford, where Tolkien is teaching linguistics, and Tolkien is still grieving the loss of his comrades in WWI several years earlier. As Reid frames it, Tolkien is known on the campus as an eccentric and a bore but, when Tolkien recites a portion of Beowulfto Lewis in the original Icelandic, Lewis is smitten. The men discover in one another a common passion for heroic myths and for the numinous beauty with which those tales tremble. The shared excitement and vulnerability of the two men are touching.

But Reed seems to have fallen in love with his research so, rather than going deeply into one aspect of their relationship, his play ranges widely—while maintaining a kind of journalistic neutrality—and never fully satisfies. [Read more…]

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