The After After Party is a banger of a night out

The Cultch is presenting The After After Party in the Vancity Culture Lab.

Cheyenne Mabberley (Jules) and Katey Hoffman (Fiona) open a Pandora’s box of comic free association in The After After Party. (Photo by Helena Boden.)

The day after seeing The After After Party, I’m still laughing as I describe it to friends. The laughter is uncontrollable. Like I’m being tickled. By unseen hands. That belong to somebody that I like but can’t identify. If you’re up for an audacious good time, The After After Party is the show for you.

In the story, it’s 2006. Jules and Fiona have one month to go before they graduate from high school. They’re losers, but they are determined to become popular before the school year ends, and they have decided to up their status by partying hard. But the night has been so wild that, when we first meet them, sitting on a park bench, they can’t remember the pre-party, the party, or the after party, which is making it challenging for them to find the after after party. They’re also a bit concerned that they might have murdered somebody, so they decide to time travel by snorting Ritalin. [Read more…]

Pss Pss: Why so old-fashioned?

Pss Pss is playing the York Theatre.

Yep, this takes skill. Maybe I’m just greedy. (Photo of Pss Pss by Pipo Gialluisi)

It’s fine. It’s okay. It’s kind of charming. But that’s not enough.

In Pss Pss, Swiss artists Camilla Pessi and Simone Fassari play mute clown characters who meet, struggle for possession of an apple, and, through increasingly challenging acrobatics, end up on a trapeze.

It takes too long for things to get going, though, and, even at this show’s high end, the skills aren’t that dazzling. [Read more…]

No Foreigners delivers less than it appears to offer

Hong Kong Exile and fu-GEN Theatre are presenting No Foreigners at The Cultch.

There is a whole lot of blank space in No Foreigners.

No Foreigners is extremely stylish. Unfortunately, that style is rarely theatrical.

No Foreigners is a kind of fairytale, digitally told. In it, a young Chinese-Canadian man finds out that he can inherit his grandfather’s wealth, but only if he can tell the executor of his grandfather’s will what the password is. To determine that password, he has to become “authentically” Chinese.

To connect with his roots, this Canadian-born guy immerses himself in the culture of a mall in Richmond. The mall is fantastical and informed by the tropes of Chinese culture, including pop culture, so, not only must he master several Chinese dialects, he must also become adept at all sorts of martial arts, and visit a secret basement room filled with luna moths that are reincarnations of the dead. [Read more…]

Reassembled, Slightly Askew is deeply weird—and generous

Shannon Yee's Reassembled, Slightly Askew is playing The Culture Lab as part of the PuSh Festival.

Reassembled Slightly Askew: your treatment awaits. (Photo by Stephen Beggs)

Reassembled, Slightly Askew provoked one of the most intense theatrical experiences I’ve had: deeply disorienting, often frightening. Was it worth it? Probably.

Written and produced by Shannon Yee, Reassembled, Slightly Askew explores Yee’s experience of acquired brain injury: symptoms, crisis, hospitalization, coma, treatments, and reemergence—changed.

The wild thing is that it all takes place inside your head. When you go, you enter the Culture Lab as part of an eight-person audience. There are eight hospital beds waiting for you. You take off your shoes, lie down on one of the beds and give yourself over. A nurse (Stephen Beggs) sets you up with a blindfold and headphones. You can’t see anything. [Read more…]

Black Boys brings it home

Buddies in Bad Time is presenting Black Boys at the Cultch as part of the PuSh Festival

Thomas Olajide leaps in Black Boys. (Photo by Jeremy Mimnagh)

It gets better. And I don’t mean that in the Dan Savage your-miserable-queer-adolescence-can-turn-into-a-happy-queer-adulthood sense. I mean Black Boys starts haltingly but hits a solid and satisfying groove.

In Black Boys, three men explore what it means to them to be black and queer—in Canada, mostly Toronto it seems—right now. Their experiences are very different. Stephen Jackman-Torkoff grew up in foster care in the Toronto suburbs. Tawiah Ben-Eben M’Carthy emigrated from Ghana. And Thomas Olajide started life in Vancouver, raised by his grandmother and aunt. [Read more…]

Hot Brown Honey starts hot then cools

Briefs Factory's production of Hot Brown Honey is at the York Theatre.

Lisa Fa’alafi lets loose in a magically transforming dress in Hot Brown Honey

Hot Brown Honey is a spectacularly well designed feminist pep rally. Over a span of 75 minutes, six Australian women of colour take on sexism, racism, and colonialism one vaudevillian act at a time.

Tristan Shelly’s set is phenomenal. It’s shaped like a beehive with emcee and queen bee Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers poised on its pinnacle, and its cells look like they have been constructed out of hexagonal industrial products—maybe honey buckets. All of those cells are individually lit and the lights are computer programmed. Watching this sculpture as words (POWER, NOISE) and shapes (hearts, smiles, geometrics) skitter across it, you feel like you’re in the best nightclub ever built, or at the best rave ever thrown. [Read more…]

The Realistic Joneses: a comedy about the limitations of language and the beauty of trying to speak

Will Eno's The Realistic Joneses is playing the Vancity Culture Lab.

Actor Tracy Letts exits on opening night of the premiere production of The Realistic Joneses. Why am I using this photo to illustrate my review of the Vancouver production? Read the Bonus Tracks and find out. (Photo by Walter McBride)

In The Realistic Joneses, playwright Will Eno behaves like a compassionate—and funny—palliative care nurse.

In the play, Pony and John Jones have just moved in next door to Jennifer and Bob Jones. Now they all live in the same small town. Bob has a degenerative neurological disorder in which a copper build-up affects the brain, especially the language centre.

Grounded in the inevitability of death, the play smells of body horror. “It’s a very personal thing, going blind,” John observes at one point. And, with existential dread, comes the untethering of meaning. Language, which is always frustratingly approximate, becomes even moreso.

The foibles of speech create discomfort. “Do you want to talk?” Jennifer asks her ailing husband near the top of the show. “What are we doing right now? Math?”, Bob replies. Embracing the absurdity of language Eno also creates lines that are knee-slappers. John gets two of the best: “I don’t know if a haiku is the best way to end a conversation,” and “I’d like to say something in Latin right now. Know what I mean, big guy?” [Read more…]

The set and costumes star in East Van Panto: Snow White & the Seven Dwarves

Theatre Replacement is presenting East Van Panto: Snow White & the Seven Dwarves

Laura Zerebeski’s painting, Marina Szijarto’s costumes, and Ming Hudson as Snow White. (Photo by Emily Cooper)

Every year, when I go to the East Van Panto, simply walking into the York Theatre is one of my favourite parts. Because of all of the kids in the audience, life suddenly becomes like bubble tea: sweet and devil-may-care. This year’s panto, Snow White & the Seven Dwarves isn’t as good a last year’s Little Red Riding Hood—Hey! It’s not my job to act like Santa Claus—but there’s plenty to like.

In the tradition of British pantomime, playwright Mark Chavez takes a familiar children’s story and twists it. In his telling, Snow White is being held captive in West Vancouver by her wicked stepmother, the Exercise Queen, who won’t let Snow White leave her room, just because her look is a little bit Goth. But Snow White catches glimpses of East Van from her window and dreams of living in a community where using crosswalks is optional. [Read more…]

Honour: this story of a Mumbai courtesan is well-intentioned but narratively weak

Dipti Mehta's Honour is at the Culture Lab as part of Diwali in BC.

In Honour, the textures of the characterizations—and fabrics—are stunning. (Photo by Kyle Rosenberg)

I have no doubt that writer and performer Dipti Mehta’s heart is in the right place, but she’s not a great storyteller.

In her solo show, Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan, Mehta introduces us to Rani, whose mother, Chameli, is a sex worker in Mumbai’s “Fuck Lane”. Rani has just turned 16 and Chameli has decided that it’s time to sell her daughter’s virginity, her “honour”. Chameli loves Rani, but she sees her decision as pragmatic: Chameli and Rani are so outcast, she reasons persuasively, that there is no way for either of them to enter mainstream society. [Read more…]

1 Hour Photo is underdeveloped

Empire of the Son was a success. 1 Hour Photo may be a success or a failure.

Tetsuro Shigematsu’s 1 Hour Photo needs more focus.

There are exquisite elements in 1 Hour Photo. There are also significant problems with the storytelling.

For almost its entire length, 1 Hour Photo doesn’t seem to know what it’s about. Writer Tetsuro Shigematsu, who performs the show with musician Steve Charles, tells the life story of Mas Yamamoto, who is the elderly father of a good friend. So far so good. But what’s the core of Shigematsu’s take on Yamamoto’s history? The playwright presents several major elements, including the incarceration of Yamamoto’s family during WWII, an unfulfilled romance, and the rocky development of Yamamoto’s career, which culminated in his owning a thriving photo-development business. [Read more…]