Colin Thomas was the theatre critic for The Georgia Straight for 30 years.




Every week, I curate the best local, national, and international theatre coverage and send it right your mailbox.

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And I include links to all of my reviews—the good, the bad, and the ugly.


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“Bloody brilliant and chockablock full of such wonderful stuff. It’s like our own local NYTIMES!!! I LOVE IT!”
– Patti Allan

Forget About Tomorrow: Get to the point

Tom (Craig Erickson) sings a song of love—on video—in Forget About Tomorrow. (Photo by David Cooper)

When I was returning to my seat after intermission, I had virtually no interest in what was going to happen next. That’s not a good sign.

In Forget About Tomorrow, playwright Jill Daum tells the story of Jane, whose husband Tom develops early-onset Alzheimer’s. The main problem with the play is that most of Act 1 is redundant. Virtually everyone entering the theatre will know that the script is about Alzheimer’s disease, but, for almost its entire length, the first act avoids the inevitable central drama. [Read more…]

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…]

An Almost Holy Picture should come with trigger warnings about bad parenting

Pacific Theatre is presenting An Almost Holy Picture.

Actor David Snider brings simplicity to An Almost Holy Picture. The script doesn’t always return the favour.

In An Almost Holy Picture, Samuel Gentle delivers a monologue about his relationship with his daughter Ariel. Samuel is such a bad parent that I wanted to stab him. To make matters worse, he is a bad parent in a very obvious way. The moral of the story and the action that Samuel needs to take were painfully clear to me soon after the intermission—but it took Samuel another long, meandering, homespun act to catch up. It’s not a good idea to let your audience get that far ahead of you. [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…]

Fun Home: talent galore—and lesbians centre stage

The Arts Club is producing Fun Home, the musical.

Alison times three: Sara-Jeanne Hosie, Jamie MacLean, and Kelli Ogmundson play the same character at different ages in Fun Home. (Photo by David Cooper)

It’s subtle, which is great. It’s queer, which is welcome. It’s also narratively unsurprising. But it’s still the best show in town.

The musical Fun Home is based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. In both, Bechdel, who is lesbian, struggles to understand her relationship with her gay father Bruce, who committed suicide.

The musical is a memory play and, as in memory, several realities coexist. Alison is 43, the same age her dad was when he killed himself. She watches ten-year-old Small Alison as Bruce bullies her into being more girly and wearing her barrette. And she stands guard over Medium Alison as she goes away to college, comes out, and falls in love with a woman named Joan. [Read more…]

Next to Normal: more interesting for the local talent than the prize-winning material

Chris Lam has directed Next to Normal.

If you don’t have production shots, I guess a poster will do. 

The cast is talented and the production is musically precise, but Next to Normal is not a well-built musical—despite having won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2010.

Act 1 is mostly boring because the protagonist, a housewife named Diana who has bipolar disorder with psychotic features, is passive. Stuck in her own suffering, she ignores her teenage daughter Natalie. Diana’s relationship with her son is really all about her. Diana dismisses her husband Dan as boring and uncommunicative and, when he tries to help, she sings an angry song in which she tells him that he couldn’t possibly understand the pain she endures.

There’s not a lot to invest in here. Dan says that he was attracted to Diana’s wild spirit, but we never see the beauty and the love that were lost and may be recovered, so how can we care about Diana or her marriage? [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…]

The Skin of Our Teeth: Maybe not this time

Studio 58 is presenting Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth.

Can a temptress like Sabina bring about the collapse of civilization, or is that question flat-out sexist? (Photo of Erin Palm by Ross den Otter)

It’s easy to see why Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth was hailed as a great work when it premiered in 1942. And it’s easy to see why director Sarah Rodgers would choose to stage it in 2018. But that doesn’t mean it’s worth watching for two and a half hours.

The Skin of Our Teeth is a deliberately allegorical—and often comic—examination of the perpetual human cycle of tragedy and resilience. And it’s chock full of anachronisms. Although the play’s vernacular places the action in the forties, Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus are clearly Adam and Eve. “Antrobus” is derived from the Greek anthropos, which means “human” or “person”. And, in a little aside, Mrs. Antrobus, whose name is Maggie, is slyly referred to as Eva. She’s not the only family member who has undergone a name change either. Her son Henry was called Cain until that unfortunate incident with Abel. [Read more…]

Ruined: Don’t look away

Dark Glass Theatre is producing Lynn Nottage's Ruined.

Makambe K. Simamba and Shayna Jones take you all the way there in Ruined. (Photo by Jalen Saip)

War is fought on women’s bodies. That truth is at the heart of Lynn Nottage’s Ruined.

Nottage sets Ruined during the war in Congo, which was officially over in 2002 but continues to rage. The action unfolds in Mama Nadi’s roadside canteen and brothel. Government and rebel armies are fighting for control of the country’s natural resources, which include coltan, a mineral essential to the production of cellphones.

Eighteen-year-old Sophie is expected to entertain fighters from both sides as well as miners. But Sophie isn’t a sex worker, she sings. She has been “ruined”, so brutalized by rape that she lives with chronic pain and infection.

For five months, Sophie’s friend Salima was a sex slave to rebel forces. Now she must work as a prostitute.

Watching Ruined, the first frightening realization is that Mama Nadi’s is the safest place for these women to be. Because they have been dishonoured, their families and villages want nothing to do with them.

Throughout the play, everybody tries to figure out how to survive—as the fighting gets closer. [Read more…]