Mom’s the Word: Talkin’ Turkey is not a turkey

publicity photo for Mom's the Word: Talkin' Turkey

I didn’t enjoy the number, but Barbara Clayden’s costumes are pretty great in this riff on The Nutcracker.
That’s Deborah Williams, Alison Kelly, Barbara Pollard, Robin Nichol, and Jill Daum.
They are on Pam Johnson’s set.
(Photo: Moonrider Productions)

I cried. I was bored. I laughed. Mom’s the Word: Talkin’ Turkey, the latest in the Mom’s the Word series, is inconsistent but, when it lands, you feel it.

The Mom’s the Word shows date way back to 1993, when a group of theatre professionals, who were all raising young kids, got together to create a performance about motherhood for the Women in View festival. Hilarious and moving, the first Mom’s the Word became an international hit, and five of the six original creators have kept pumping out sequels since then. This one is about the challenges of the Christmas holidays — and the specific stresses of sharing them with your adult kids, aging parents, and in one instance, a dead spouse.

All of the stories are personal to the women who perform them, and they’re presented in a revue format that includes heartfelt sharing, outrageous anecdotes, and occasional songs.

I’m a fan of the heartfelt sharing and the lashings of wit. In a prime example, Alison Kelly remembers a Christmas when she hung a thousand origami cranes over the crib of her tiny, premature son, who was in the neonatal intensive care unit, willing him to survive. Then Deb Williams cuts in with, “He lived. He’s 34. You’ve got to find a better story.” [Read more…]

Blue Stockings: Feminism 101

publicity photo for Blue Stockings

Kevin Nguyen and Zoë Autumn in Blue Stockings (Photo by Emily Cooper)

I wish there was a time store where I could go and demand a refund.

The subject matter of Jessica Swale’s 2013 script is potentially fascinating. Set in 1896, Blue Stockings is about women’s struggle to be granted degrees at Cambridge University. The story features four female students, all gifted scientists, who are members of Girton College, the first college at Cambridge to accept female scholars. If the push for accreditation is successful, these four could be the first women to receive formal degree qualification.

But Swale’s script is politically heavy handed, and it doesn’t find its focus until the second act. Including intermission, the evening clocks in at three hours. (When I realized there was going to be a second act, I suppressed a moan.) [Read more…]

No Child… : Yes, child!

Celia Aloma, Arts Club Theatre, No Child...

Celia Aloma reminds us that live theatre is all about embodiment. (Photo by Moonrider Productions.)

Are you looking for a really good reason to go back to the theatre? Here you go: the Arts Club’s production of Nilaja Sun’s No Child… will remind you what it’s all about. [Read more…]

A Hundred Words for Snow: but where’s the subtlety?

Hundred Words for Snow, United Players, Vancouver theatre

Hana Joi does her best with clumsy material in A Hundred Words for Snow. (Photo by Doug Williams)

This is the first time I’ve attended a live performance since the beginning of the plague, so I’m going to start off by talking about that.

Going in, I was mildly freaked out; I’m 68 and I’m taking immunosuppressant drugs. Because I’m vulnerable, I wore a mask and a face shield. But I ditched the shield after about eight minutes because it made me feel like I was in another room. Besides, I was aware that United Players, the producing company, was taking good care of me. [Read more…]

Take d Milk, Nah?: Yeah, take d milk

Take d Milk, Nah? is playing at The Cultch.

According to Jivesh Parasram, Hindu cows don’t say moo.
He’s in a position to know.

I’ve been so bored in the theatre so often lately that I’ve been starting to wonder if I’m dead inside. That’s why I’m feeling so high right now:  Take d Milk, Nah? kept me consistently stimulated and engaged. [Read more…]

Mother of the Maid: a theatrical strategy that doesn’t work

Pacific Theatre is producing Jane Anderson's Mother of the Maid.

Anita Wittenberg is a better actor that we get to see in Mother of the Maid. (Photo by Jalen Laine)

With Mother of the Maid, Pacific Theatre offers a pedestrian interpretation of a superficial script. It’s not terrible, but it’s not rewarding.   [Read more…]

Jesus Christ: The Lost Years. Why?

Monster Theatre is presenting Jesus Christ: The Lost Years at the Havana Theatre.

This undeniably excellent poster is by Kurt Firla. (It’s the Fringe version; ignore the dates.)

There’s nothing seriously wrong with Jesus Christ: The Lost Years. And there are some things that are majorly right. I’m just not super clear on why it exists.

In this hour-long show, writers Ryan Gladstone, Katherine Sanders, and Bruce Horak imagine what Jesus might have been up to between the ages of 13 and 30, during which time he disappears from the historical record. In their telling, Jesus is traumatized when he finds out that Joseph isn’t his biological father and sets off in search of his “real dad”. [Read more…]

salt.: how history fits on contemporary bodies

DICK-DAVENPORTWriter/performer Selina Thompson slams it in salt. (Photo by Dick Davenport)

At the beginning of her autobiographical solo show salt., Selina Thompson says, “I’m 28. I’m black. I’m a woman.” I’m 66, white, and a man and those realities will have a huge impact on how I interpret Thompson’s work.*

The realities of everyday racism still shock me, for instance. Near the top of salt., Thompson relates a story about her grandmother, who was told as a little girl—by her schoolteacher—that black people have darker skin because they are lazy and dirty in God’s eyes. Decades later, a little boy in a Bristol café points Thompson out as a nigger and, although she was born in Birmingham and lives in England, she still fields endless questions about where she is “really” from.

The concreteness of this material made it some of the most affecting in the script for me.

Then, in a way, Thompson sets out to experience where she is “really” from. The body of salt. is about a journey that she took in 2013: to explore the history of slavery and its impact on her life, she traveled by cargo ship from Belgium to Ghana, then on to Jamaica and back to the UK. [Read more…]

Prince Hamlet: the play’s the thing—sometimes

Bronwen-SharpDawn Jani Birley makes a compelling Horatio in Prince Hamlet. (Photo by Bronwen Sharp)

This Hamlet is like a priceless fabric with a lot of holes in it.

Director Ravi Jain has conceived and cast this production with refreshing inclusivity: the players are racially diverse, seven out of nine performers are women, there are multiple gender reversals in the casting, and the production is bilingual: Dawn Jani Birley, who is deaf, plays Hamlet’s friend, Horatio, and the story unfolds in both English and American Sign Language.

In many instances, the results are revelatory. Christine Horne’s Prince is the most original, the most mentally unstable, and by far the wittiest Hamlet I’ve seen. Jain and Horne establish the edge of craziness early: near the top of the show, when Hamlet sees his father’s ghost on the ramparts, Hamlet speaks the ghost’s lines, possessed by a kind of ecstasy. (I’m using male pronouns because the characters maintain their original gender identities.) [Read more…]

The Open House: six degrees of obscuration

Open House-5204

Less than halfway through this evening, I wrote in my notebook, “I don’t want to spend any more time with them.” Mostly, I was talking about the characters; there are strengths—as well as significant weaknesses—in the production.

In The Open House, which runs an unbroken 90 minutes, adult Son and Daughter have come home to celebrate Mother and Father’s wedding anniversary. The evening starts with an extended passage in which these four—and Uncle—abuse each other and ignore one another’s cries for help.

Having suffered strokes and heart attacks, Father uses a wheelchair—and he’s a flaming asshole. When Uncle makes a comment about the kids’ affection for pets, Father spits, “How many times do I have to ask you never to think about this family?” Father relentlessly insults and belittles Mother, making it clear that she is a third-choice wife who has become an idiotic inconvenience. And, when Son tries to open up to Father, Father says, “Work this into your sleep” and mimes shooting him. [Read more…]

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