Three Little Pieces — with big hearts

Vagrant Players, Three Little Pieces

David Lennon and Stephanie George try for love at first click in the age of COVID.

Who wants to be seduced? I’m not talking about hard-wired seduction, the kind that’s all about your junk. I’m talking about the kind that opens your heart to irrational possibilities — like love — the kind that sets you floating in the universe and leaves you feeling a little drunk around the edges. [Read more…]

Tom Kerr, “a giant of a man”

Obituary of director Tom Kerr

Tom Kerr was a major force in Canadian theatre and has left an enormous legacy.

Hi everybody,

Glen Cairns, the longtime partner of theatre director and teacher Tom Kerr, wrote the tribute I’m sharing here.

Stay well,
Colin [Read more…]

House and Home: a recommended short-term rental

The Firehall Arts Centre is presenting Jenn Griffin's House and Home.

Jillian Fargey and Andrew Wheeler both rock in House and Home (Photo by Reznek Creative)

It’s kind of a shapeless bag of jewels, but it’s still a bag of jewels. [Read more…]

The Sea floated my boat — intermittently

The Slamming Door Collective is presenting Edward Bond's The Sea at the Jericho Arts Centre.

Slamming Door delivers a stylish production of Edward Bond’s eccentric script. (Photo of Cheyenne Mabberley and Genevieve Fleming by Erin Aberle-Palm)

Like a kid who has had the wrong kind of home schooling, Edward Bond’s The Sea is wildly creative—and undisciplined. It takes you to a refreshingly original imaginative world but then insists that you linger too long in some of the duller corners. [Read more…]

Mrs. Krishnan’s Party: accept this invitation

production-shots-23

I feel revived. So many things in the world these days are so depressing and alienating—the endless Trump news, for instance. Grounded, personal, and celebratory, Mrs. Krishnan’s Party is the perfect antidote for all of that. I don’t know when I’ve left the theatre feeling so refreshed and renewed. [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…]

A CRITIC’S DOZEN: 11 must-see fall shows

The theatre season we’re in promises to be thrilling.

As you’ll see, six of my 11 top picks will be playing at Cultch venues. So, if I were looking for season’s tickets, that’s where I’d buy.

Here we go!

 

Les Belles-Soeurs

Tabernac! The cast! This Ruby Slippers/Gateway co-pro features an avalanche of talent that includes Patti Allan, Eileen Barrett, Lucia Frangione, Pippa Mackie, Melissa Oei, France Perras, Kerry Sandomirsky, and Beatrice Zeilinger—and that’s only about half of them! Michel Tremblay’s 50-year-old classic introduces us to a group of women in 1960s Montreal who get together to stick savings-stamps into books. But that premise is just the fuse in this incendiary comedy about class, religion, and gender.

September 28 to October 6. Co-produced by Ruby Slippers Theatre and the Gateway theatre. At the Gateway. Tickets.

 

Incognito Mode: A Play About Porn

Marcus Youssef knows how to collaborate. Peter Panties and King Arthur’s Nights, which he created with Niall McNeil, and Winners and Losers, which he wrote with James Long, are among the best shows I’ve seen. The guy won the Siminovitch Prize for playwriting for God’s sake. That’s huge—like $100,000 huge. And this time out, he’s collaborating with students at Studio 58 about what it’s like to be the first generation to have grown up with constant and easy access to porn. What could be more intriguing?

September 29 to October 14. Produced by Studio 58 and Neworld Theatre. At Studio 58. Tickets. [Read more…]

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.)

Tickets

 

* 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.

 

Sign up—free!—for Colin Thomas’s FRESH SHEET and get daily reviews for the first week of the Vancouver Fringe.

And, if you want to support informed, independent criticism—you know you do—check out Colin’s Patreon campaign.

……….

 

 

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.)

……….

 

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

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.)

……….

 

Sign up—free!—

YEAH, THIS IS ANNOYING. But my theatre newsletter is fun!

Sign up and get curated international coverage + local reviews every Thursday!