SMALL TOWN BOYS

> Sarvin Ismaeili *

Small Town Boys helped me to understand men’s vulnerability.

Performer/writer Sean Casey Leclaire introduces us to a group of boys who start hanging out together in suburban Montreal in 1970. Then the narrator follows his pals Bruno and Triple D out west. It’s a love story of sorts. But only one boy survives.

When Leclaire says, “No man is born violent”. I couldn’t agree with him more. And, in Small Town Boys, Leclaire looks for the roots of violence in the boys’ histories, their parenting, and their society.

That said, there are problems with Leclaire’s acting performance. When he walks onstage, he brings no energy, so it’s hard for him to drive his scenes. There are unnecessary pauses and the show feels under-rehearsed.

Still, Small Town Boys shifted my negative judgments of violent men—and that’s something.

Remaining Performances at the Waterfront Theatre on September 13 (6:45 p.m.), 15 (6:15 p.m.), and 16 (3:15 p.m.)

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* This is a guest review.

Sarvin Esmaeili currently studies at Studio 58. She is a passionate 19-year-old theatre artist who cares a lot about diversity, inclusion and creating her own theatre and music. Sarvin is fluent in three languages: Farsi, English, and French. She loves reading, travelling, writing and going to the theatre. She is a co-playwright/performer of One of a Kind at the 2018 Vancouver International Children’s Festival and Doors of Choice and Identity at Vancouver Youth Theatre. She has done community theatre at Evergreen Cultural Center, Place des Arts and Pinetree Secondary’s Treehouse Theatre.

 

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BIG SISTER

Big Sister is intelligent, relevant, charmingly performed—and a lot less satisfying than you’d expect.

Playwright Deborah Vogt explores her relationship with her sister Naomi, who lost 75 pounds as an adult. Naomi performs the solo show, which is written in her voice, so she speaks the words that Deborah has put in her mouth. She also breaks out to address the audience as her “real self”—except, of course, those breakouts are also scripted.

At its most obvious, Big Sister is about fat shaming—social rejection and insults. But this text plays variations on the theme: Naomi is aware of the social privilege that her sleeker profile affords and, after a lifetime of being defiantly big, she finds herself uncomfortably invested in her normative beauty.

Most intriguingly, Big Sisterconsiders how we construct our identities in reaction to those around us, including our siblings, and by filling the spaces they leave vacant.

But the structural and tonal homogeneity of Big Sister undermine it. Deborah and Naomi’s sardonic voices are confusingly similar. And there’s no central story, so there are no clear stakes and the accumulation that exists feels abstract.

I’d much rather see the issues of Big Sisterexplored through a dynamic relationship, a real two-hander, rather than in this monologue, which feels too much like an essay.

Remaining performances at the Revue Stage on September 8 (1 p.m.), 9 (9 p.m.), 13 (6:45 p.m.), 15 (5:45 p.m.), and 16 (1:45 p.m.) > Colin Thomas

 

Sign up—free!—for Colin Thomas’s FRESH SHEET and get daily reviews from the Vancouver Fringe. (During the regular season, FRESH SHEET is stuffed with the world’s most fascinating theatre news. Here’s a taste.)

And, because theatre needs informed, independent criticism if it’s going to thrive, check out Colin’s Patreon campaign. (It takes a village to feed a critic.)

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JASPER IN DEADLAND

This glorious musical retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice explodes out of the starting gate—and almost self-destructs on its high-octane ambitions.

Jasper loves Agnes. Agnes dives off a cliff. Jasper follows her into the underworld. Divine shenanigans ensue.

The production is snappy and inventive in its manipulation of fabric and crates. The actors are winning and likable. And the choice to cast Jasper as a woman (Merewyn Comeau) injects an understated and appreciated queerness. Awkward Stage Productions confidently sails this musical down hell’s river.

Then the tech nearly sinks it. The lighting (especially early on) is unforgivably patchy. And the sound design is wretched: the five-piece band routinely overpowers the singers, and Ryan Scott Oliver’s clever lyrics are often garbled in the mix. Because they’re the only performers whose mics are reliably balanced, corporate villainess Mrs. Lethe (Natalie Backerman) and tour guide Gretchen (Lucia Forward) very nearly steal the show.

Transferred to a better theatre with a professional sound technician, Jasper in Deadlandwould be unstoppable. At present? It’s still worthwhile. But clean your ears first.

Remaining performances at the Firehall Arts Centre on September 8 (6 p.m.), 9 (3:15 p.m.), 12 (8:45 p.m.), 13 (5:30 p.m.), 14 (9 p.m.), 15 (4 p.m.), 16 (6:30 p.m.) > David Johnston

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This is a guest review.

David Johnston is a Vancouver-based actor, aerialist, and writer, not in that order. He recently hailed from the Edmonton Fringe, where he saw many excellent shows and also ate a green onion cake. The green onion cake got three-and-a-half stars. David is a recent graduate of Studio 58, and is currently writing a script about reviews, so this should be a rather meta experience. He’s delighted to join FRESH SHEET for the Vancouver Fringe.

 

Sign up—free!—for Colin Thomas’s FRESH SHEET and get daily reviews from the Vancouver Fringe. (During the regular season, FRESH SHEET is stuffed with the world’s most fascinating theatre news. Here’s a taste.)

And, because theatre needs informed, independent criticism if it’s going to thrive, check out Colin’s Patreon campaign. (It takes a village to feed a critic.)

……….

 

THE LADY SHOW

THE LADY SHOW

What a fabulous 25-minute sketch show! Unfortunately, the runtime is 55 minutes. The end result settles somewhat south of fabulous, but it’s still a net positive.

Four uproarious actresses present a variety of approaches—stand-up! sketches! stand-up sketches! movie trailers! vagina pants!—on the loose theme of… ladyness? Ladyism? Look, it’s feminist, it’s hilarious, and I laughed more times than I can count.

I also got bored more times than I can count. Pretty much every bit is overlong, with dead space you could haul a semitrailer through. A ruthless directorial eye would go a long way to shoring up the gaps, but the production embraces a slapdash feel, for good and for ill.

I loved Fatima Dhowre’s stand-up and Diana Bang’s surreal ballad. In contrast, a noir interrogation scene overstays its welcome by what feels like nine hours.

Still, the end result is dizzying, in all possible ways. Bring your loudest friends and remember to predrink.

Remaining performances at the Firehall Arts Centre on September 8 (8:15 p.m.), 9 (10 p.m.), 12 (7 p.m.), 15 (6:15 p.m.), 16 (8:45 p.m.) > David Johnston

Tickets

 

This is a guest review.

David Johnston is a Vancouver-based actor, aerialist, and writer, not in that order. He recently hailed from the Edmonton Fringe, where he saw many excellent shows and also ate a green onion cake. The green onion cake got three-and-a-half stars. David is a recent graduate of Studio 58, and is currently writing a script about reviews, so this should be a rather meta experience. He’s delighted to join FRESH SHEET for the Vancouver Fringe.

 

Sign up—free!—for Colin Thomas’s FRESH SHEET and get daily reviews from the Vancouver Fringe. (During the regular season, FRESH SHEET is stuffed with the world’s most fascinating theatre news. Here’s a taste.)

 And, because theatre needs informed, independent criticism if it’s going to thrive, check out Colin’s Patreon campaign. (It takes a village to feed a critic.)

……….

 

Once: not twice

The Arts Club is presenting Once at the Granville Island Stage.

Gili Roskies as Girl and Adrian Glynn McMorran as Guy in Once. Kiss one another already. (Photo by Emily Cooper)

Once is more than enough.

Yes, Once won Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical in 2012, along with six other Tonys. And it has hauled in a bunch of other prizes, too, but man it’s boring!

Here’s the plot: boy meets girl; they dither endlessly. To be more specific, in working-class Dublin, a young Irishman who’s identified only as Guy meets a young Czech immigrant whom the script calls Girl. Guy is depressed—he’s just been dumped—and he has given up on his dreams of having a musical career. Then, through her sheer perkiness, Girl lifts Guy out of his funk. A musician herself, she presses Guy not to abandon his music. As this is going on, Girl and Guy waver about whether or not to act on the romantic feelings they obviously have for one another. They waver. And waver. Then, after the intermission, they waver some more. This kind of romantic indecision is just fine in friends but when you go to the theatre, you don’t want to feel like you’re spending the night stuck in a stalled car. [Read more…]

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: children’s theatre can do better

Carousel Theatre for Young People is presenting The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at the Waterfront Theatre.

Sereana Malani as the White Witch. If only evil were always this stylin’.

During the holiday season, adults are eager to take the kids in their lives to the theatre. That lovely human impulse should be rewarded with first-rate art. Unfortunately, Carousel Theatre for Young People’s production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is only okay. [Read more…]

Onegin is superb

Onegin is playing at the Arts Club's Granville Island Stage

Give yourself the gift of smart, openhearted sensuality this season: see Onegin. (That’s Lauren Jackson on the left and Josh Epstein on the right. David Cooper took the photo)

I saw Onegin again last night and, not to put too fine a point on it, it was like falling back into the arms of a favourite lover. [Read more…]

Little Dickens: The Daisy Theatre Presents A Christmas Carol – genius, with limitations

Little Dickens. Schnitzel. Ronnie Burkett

If it were legal to adopt marionettes, I would apply for guardianship of Schnitzel.

Puppeteer Ronnie Burkett is a genius. He just is. Another blunt truth: Little Dickens isn’t his best show—at least it isn’t yet.

As the full title makes clear, Little Dickens: The Daisy Theatre Presents A Christmas Carol is yet another riff on Charles Dickens’s classic seasonal ghost story.

Burkett has been mounting evenings called The Daisy Theatre at The Cultch for four years now. The Daisy Theatre itself is kind of a rep company of marionettes: we see the same characters every winter. The idea behind this is that it allows audiences to spend more time with favourites and it lets Burkett put up an annual holiday entertainment without having to carve a whole new cast of characters every time.

In Little Dickens, the bitter old showgirl Esmé Massingill becomes Scrooge, the stout Prairie housewife, Edna Rural takes on the role of Christmas Present, and the irresistible fairy Schnitzel becomes Tiny Tim. [Read more…]

The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonious: Just how dark do you want it?

Rumble Theatre is presenting The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius at The Cultch.

Peter Anderson (Titus) should not be allowed to play with dolls. (Photo by Steven Drover)

At the beginning of The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius, I was so stimulated—so shocked, laughing so hard—that I was afraid I was going to start shouting things. Unplanned, random shit. You’ve got to love a show that makes you feel like you might lose your mind. [Read more…]

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