Vancouver Theatre Guide

Our blog offers articles written by our team of resident bloggers as well as various members of the theatre community. It provides reflections on local productions, as well as thoughts on other events and issues affecting our local theatre scene.

Are you a member with a show you'd like to invite one of our blogger to? Email us at info@gvpta.ca with details of the production, including which date(s) you’d like to offer a blogger two tickets, and we’ll do our best to get someone out to cover your show. Details about our blogging program are on the Resident bloggers page.

Do you have a blog post you’d like to contribute? Send us an email at info@gvpta.ca

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  • Saturday, November 26, 2016 10:00 AM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, based on John Gay's The Beggar's Opera

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Mary Littlejohn

    Despite the fact that this 18th-century tale is now set in the 1920’s, and that all the Londoners have Canadian accents, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more authentic experience of The Threepenny Opera.

    It’s not just a show. It’s a manifesto. It’s gritty. It’s dark. It’s very silly at times, but overall it’s a biting social commentary. It’s rough around the edges, but Theatre In The Raw consistently draws some of Vancouver’s most sublime performers, both professional and non. They give the material its needed gravitas without taking themselves seriously, providing us with a bevy of enduring characters, from the cutthroat Macheath and his ridiculous gang of misfits to the delightfully dysfunctional Peachums. We can still laugh as the world goes to Hell.

    Theatre In The Raw is an experience. I keep using the word “experience” because that’s what it is. It’s not just something you watch. You feel personally involved. The actors are speaking to you; what’s more, even though you are a spectator, you feel as though you are engaged in a dialogue. It’s a bit of a lopsided forum, granted, but TITR is clearly inspired by Bertolt Brecht’s “Epic Theatre” production style. Both use the theatre as a platform to showcase political ideals, to force audiences to look past the floodlights and recognize the social inequality that is going on outside. This production is at the Russian Hall in the heart of Strathcona, just a stone’s throw from the Downtown Eastside. You can feel it seeping in, like “a body oozing life” in the famous song. Even the audience members here are not your typical theatre-going crowd. They seem more alert and engaged. A line like “the powerful of the earth can create poverty but they can’t bear to look at it” gets spontaneous applause, because it hits you to your core. It was great to see a packed house on a Wednesday evening (though the 2-for-1 deal might have had something to do with it). 

    I can understand why this show has remained so popular and has been re-vamped and re-invented countless times since 1728 when John Gay cobbled together The Beggar’s Opera. Have things changed so little? The poor are still poor, the rich are still rich, criminals walk free and wronged women receive no retribution. Until these are things of the past, The Threepenny Opera will remain regrettably relevant.

    The Threepenny Opera is presented by Theatre In the Raw, and is playing until November 27, 2016.

    Information and tickets are through theatreintheraw.ca


  • Wednesday, October 26, 2016 9:00 PM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    Frankenstein, 1945 by Mily Mumford

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Kaylin Metchie

    It’s alive!!

    This theatre noir piece immediately plunges the audience into a post-war, monster mystery feeling. The flickering lights that surround the cast bios outside foretell a play that is full of shadows, 1940s suits and dresses, and pops of seductive red. Frankenstein, 1945 is visually stunning. A set composed of slate blinds and hanging lightbulbs immediately made me think of a black and white detective mystery, which Frankenstein, 1945 pretty much is. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, or more accurately, an 1800s horror novel wrapped in real historical tragedies, inside a film noir.

    Mily Mumford, writer and director, creates a production that draws you in while at the same time making you feel mildly uncomfortable. And one that I am happy to say is closer to the original novel than the 1930s horror movies that bare the same name. Dr Frankenstein (played by Gregory Radzimowski), is a socially awkward yet brilliant scientist, whose moral code is not easily defined.

    This is one part of the play that really spoke to me. Having read the book by Mary Shelley, you see that Dr Frankenstein starts off his quest to find a cure for death with a good heart, but gets swept up along the way in his own single-minded goal. In Frankenstein, 1945, he happens to be a scientist during Nazi Germany, a time where, under the guise of scientific advancement, innocent people were used like lab rats. Frankenstein does leave the tutorage of the cold-hearted Nazi doctor Herta Oberhauser (played by Jessica Quartel), but not before picking up some ideals and skills.

    Mumford is also able to modernize the Frankenstein story, which may sound weird from a play that is so stylishly placed in the 1940s. Elizabeth (played by Madelyn Osborne), Frankenstein’s love interest, isn’t simply a woman waiting around inside a man’s story; she’s an engineer that lends an active hand in the creation of the Creature.

    Creating a highly stylized production is not an easy feat. It requires that all elements, even the seemingly mundane elements like the audience waiting area, work in concert with each other – each aspect building upon the others to culminate into a piece of art that speaks in one cohesive language.

    This is what Frankenstein, 1945 did.

    This is a perfect play for this spooky season, one that is worth braving the rain and wind to go see.

    Frankenstein, 1945 is part of Theatre Wire’s season, and runs until October 30 at Studio 1398 (1398 Cartwright St., Granville Island).

    Tickets and information are through theatrewire.com


  • Saturday, October 08, 2016 4:00 PM | GVPTA (Administrator)
    The Concierge of Vancouver by Shaul Ezer

    Reflections by guest blogger Mary Littlejohn

     

    It’s about time someone wrote a play about this.

    I saw a preview performance of The Concierge of Vancouver this week. The performers were passionate and energetic. It’s a special treat to see a show this topical and relevant to our city, starring actors who live and work in Vancouver. Addressing the issue of investment properties (in particular the mostly-empty luxury condominiums in Coal Harbour), playwright Shaul Ezer has disguised a revolutionary manifesto as a farcical, light-hearted comedy. I laughed, but I’m still fired up.

    The play is satisfying for those of us who feel hopeless and helpless in these uncertain times. It’s wish-fulfillment, providing a fantasy that doesn’t exactly offer a realistic solution, but wouldn’t it be nice if it were actually happening? (I don’t want to give too much away, though it does become somewhat obvious if you’re paying attention in the first half).

    I found myself walking through Coal Harbour not long after seeing the show, staring up in wonder at all these empty luxury condominiums, with breathtaking views that are going unseen. What is the solution? It’s a difficult question, and no once can seem to agree on an answer. Maybe that’s because many don’t see a problem at all, and why should they? What they are doing makes sense, fiscally. But if they are not living here, merely using their “homes” as an investment, how can they see the effect this trend is having on our city? On the morale of the folks who have lived here all their lives, now being priced out, pushed into the ever-expanding suburbs, where the prices are rising, too?

    The Concierge of Vancouver wants to incite and inspire. You can see it in the performances, in the determination of the actors and hear it in the playwright’s words. The show is scrappy but polished, like its hero, Al. Kudos to Matchmaker Productions for encouraging dialogue about these issues - literally, in fact, with their upcoming talkbacks. The show is sponsored by, among others, real estate agents. I’d like to hear their thoughts on the show and the issues it addresses.

    It’s hard not to feel impotent about these matters (as an average Vancouverite who will probably be renting for the rest of her life) and what it means for my retirement and for my child’s future.  But results depend on who shows up to take part in the discussion. Art can produce change, but not if it exists within a vacuum.


    The Concierge of Vancouver is presented by Matchmaker Productions and is on stage at Studio 1398 until October 16. Tickets and information through matchmakerproductions.com


  • Sunday, September 11, 2016 11:00 AM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    aux.la.more by Kara Nolte

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Kaylin Metchie


    A typical Vancouver Fringe setting: a multipurpose room retro-fitted with black curtains on the windows to block out light, a handful of occupied folding chairs arranged in rows, and an air of expectation of what’s to come. I had no idea what to expect from aux.la.more, preferring these days to go into a theatrical experience blind and without influence.

    aux.la.more is like a first date. Strange and beautiful, welcoming and yet odd all at the same time. It begins with Kara Nolte facing away from the audience, bathed in a low blue light and swaying to music only heard by Kara herself. Like the beginning of a first date, where you present just a dash of who you are, still unsure of the person sitting across from you. When Kara finally does turn to the audience, she tells us that her mission for this piece is to turn the solo into a duet, to get someone from the audience up out of their seats to dance with her. The piece moves towards an unknown, “Will someone in the audience join her on stage or will she be left up there all alone?” Much like the unknown of a first date, neither party knowing whether by the end of those drinks they will be parting their separate ways or joining each other in a duet of life.

    As the performance progresses, Kara opens herself to the audience, allowing us a glimpse, albeit brief, into who this twinkling voiced dancer is. Like how her love of karaoke, especially Sunday night karaoke at a specific Main and Hastings dive bar, allows her to continue to connect with a destructive moment in her life that she has moved away from.

    Kara’s sojourns of exposition gave this contemporary dance piece roots in the real world. At times, contemporary theatre or art can get trapped in a cycle self-aggrandizing, moving so far away from the tangible world that it pushes the audience away as second class. aux.la.more feels real, feels grounded.

    This is the epitome of what the Fringe should be: non-mainstream artists sharing their passions and talents with a captivated audience. It makes you feel safe and still question the surrounding world.

    Kara as a performer is incredibly engaging. The piece is deceptively simple, a solo dancer on an empty stage. But writhing just beneath, a story about connecting to those around us.

    aux.la.more runs during the Vancouver Fringe Festival, and plays for two more shows at False Creek Gym September 11 (4:30pm) and 13 (9:30pm).

     

    Tickets and information at tickets.vancouverfringe.com


  • Friday, July 29, 2016 12:00 PM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    Betrayal by Harold Pinter

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Keara Barnes


    Betrayal. It is the central theme in Pinter’s play, present in a multitude of ways: betrayal to one’s partner, one’s lover, one’s family, one’s self. I believe it is also subjective. Is it considered betrayal if the betrayer feels no guilt? If you, yourself, while betraying someone, are in turn being betrayed by said person? What about betraying someone with their full knowledge and awareness? Perhaps ultimately, judgement lies in the eyes of the individual, the circumstance, the relationship. Whatever the case may be, Ensemble Theatre Company’s production shines a spotlight on the subject, on a closely intertwined threesome, hell bent on being united in their unfaithfulness.

    Emma, married to Robert, is having a seven year long affair with Jerry, who is married to Judith. Robert and Jerry are best friends. Robert has known about the affair for four years. Robert is also having various affairs. The act of betrayal is prevalent in every relationship presented. It is transfixing to watch each character battle their own morality and disregard their conscience. The present of guilt enters into the equation at times, yet is strangely absent at others.

    Time is a beautifully utilized concept in ETC’s production, initially seen in the script’s structure of going from present to past, journeying back in time to the beginning of Emma and Jerry’s affair. Moreover, the set is configured like a clock, a theatre in the round set up whereby audiences observe scenes at evenly spaced out marks in a circle. Centre stage, a steady stream of sand pours into a glass beaker.  The production design is evoking, dark and intimate, much like the play itself, and the 70 uninterrupted minutes sneak by quickly like lovers in the night.

     

    Betrayal plays at the Jericho Arts Centre until August 19 as part of Ensemble Theatre Company’s 4th annual Repertory Festival. Tickets and information through ensembletheatrecompany.ca


  • Thursday, July 28, 2016 12:00 PM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    Pericles by William Shakespeare

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Andrew Wade


    As a play, the original Pericles is a house built on sand. Not so with this production.

    Most historians believe that the first two acts of Pericles, The Prince of Tyre were penned by someone other than Shakespeare, and that someone was, to put it simply, not a phenomenal playwright. As such, though the final three acts were most likely written by the The Bard himself, the actual words of the play are not ranked along the best or most memorable in Shakespeare's canon.

    All this makes Lois Anderson's direction and sculpting of Pericles even more impressive. Using welcome textual edits and scenic devices, Bard on the Beach's production takes the this metaphorical house and rebuilds it on firmer foundations. The original play's words may not spark the same connection with the depths of humanity that an audience might find in other works at Vanier Park,  but thanks to expert dramaturgical and artistic decisions, with this production we have a construction well worth exploring.

    For our prologuing character, we get an old magician (David Warburton) setting the tale and pulling us through it. He summons shadows of people, sets sparks into the air and concocts potions as he shares the story. Bedsheets become boats and horses, characters' lives become fairy tales, and the stage flows smoothly and subtly from scene to scene. Amir Ofek's impressive scenic design allows for kingdoms to rise up from sand and pottery, then later to collapse into dust once more.

    Photo credit - David Blue

    This is not a show that is all production puffery or historical meandering but without substance. While Pericles admittedly often felt like a family reunion in need of an antagonist, whenever Kayla Deorksen took to the stage (as the Bawd) she picked up the show with an antagonistic, lively vivacity that kept the audience gripped to the present moment plights of these characters. Luisa Jojic, as Marina, also holds the audience's hearts close to her once the script allows her to take a larger part in the plot. And Kayvon Kelly helps the us not be too put off by the ever so Shakespearean doling out of marriages among near-strangers.

    Despite all the original script's misgivings, Bard on the Beach's production of Pericles is a theatrical marvel sturdily built, and well worth your evening.

     

    Pericles is on stage as part of the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival through September 18. Tickets and information are through bardonthebeach.org


  • Wednesday, July 27, 2016 12:00 PM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Heather Evens


    When I told a friend that I had seen Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, and that it was set in 1968 in Windsor, Ontario, she burst out laughing. “The Merry Wives of Windsor, Ontario! That’s hilarious!” she howled.

    “It was great!” I said. “It just worked!”

    Amber Lewis & Katey Wright - Photo credit - David BlueBut I can see shy she would be skeptical. Shakespeare’s work is classic – how can you modernize it? But maybe it’s precisely because the plays are classic that they can be modernized. The themes that Shakespeare wrote about still apply today. (Okay, maybe an exception is all the shipwrecks – we don’t hear about that happening so much these days.) The women (i.e, the wives) in this particular story were dealing with a rather misogynistic newcomer in town, their sometimes jealous/sometimes clueless/sometimes stubborn husbands, a defiant teenager, a nosy neighbour, and various characters from around the town. Their language may have been Elizabethan, but their problems and predicaments as women are definitely relatable to Canadian women in the 1960s, and one would argue, today.

    Modernizing Shakespeare’s work is one of the great things Bard on the Beach sometimes does – modernizing and otherwise adding pop culture references to their shows lets them make his work more accessible to people who would otherwise might be anxious about seeing Elizabethan theatre.

    And because William Shakespeare died 400 years ago, the theatre company doesn’t have to ask for the playwright’s permission (or beg forgiveness?) to shake things up. (Under copyright law, theatre companies must request permission to make changes to original scripts if the playwright is alive or if it’s within 50 years of the playwright’s death. Because Shakespeare passed away 400 years ago, his work can, in theory, be played with, mixed up, and turned on its head without permission or repercussions.) This allows Bard on the Beach to get very creative very easily, which they always do. And this season, they’ve brought two of their four shows into the 19th and 20th centuries – The Merry Wives of Windsor is set in Canada in 1968, and Othello is set in the U.S. in 1864, during the Civil War.

    Are you afraid to see a Shakespeare play? Not sure you’ll understand it? First of all, most people would agree that Shakespeare’s work is meant to be seen on the stage, not read in a book. Even seasoned thespians can get tripped up by trying to decipher every word on the page. And you certainly don’t have to know every word being said to understand what’s going on in front of you on the stage. Trust me, if you go see The Merry Wives of Windsor this season, you’ll get what’s going on. Elizabethan language or not, you’ll understand the action, you’ll understand the characters, and you’ll definitely understand the culture. And the high energy mixed with the 1960s live music pretty much guarantees a very merry evening of Shakespearean theatre!

    I’m glad Bard on the Beach brought back this version of The Merry Wives from their 2012 season. It’s so worth it. I think they’ll have lots of new audience members hooked on the Bard after this season!

    The Merry Wives of Windsor is playing as part of the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival until September 24, 2016. Tickets and information are available through bardonthebeach.org


  • Tuesday, July 26, 2016 12:00 PM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Keara Barnes

    It is the eternally prevailing love story. An intensely impetuous romance brought to a tragic, fated end.  This is Romeo and Juliet, a seemingly timeless tale that survives and still thrives in the 21st Century.  But why? Why is this story so beloved? The dramatic circumstances certainly make for an interesting premise: warring families, romantic culture, joyful youth, the ideal of fated love, or “star-cross’d lovers”… But has the concept of sweeping romance not dissipated in this day and age? Maybe. Maybe not.  In a world of online dating do people still desire romance and unyielding passion? Or are these notions considered ‘wistful ideals?’ Too often people are disappointed or even deceived by present day dating – after all, how easy is it to make yourself appear attractive or successful in a profile?  Gone is the grandiose whim of ‘love at first sight.’ People have become disenchanted by their disappointments and failed relationships; divorce has become an accepted social normality. We often settle instead for a less romantic love, but a secure – financially or emotionally – relationship. But perhaps, brooding inside all of us, that overwhelming desire for all engrossing love abounds. Thus the story of Juliet and her Romeo lives on, alive inside each one of us whose furtive desires fuel its continued life.

    Romeo and Juliet, directed by Kim Collier, currently playing at Bard on the Beach, fervidly depicts this powerful love story, entrancingly performed by leads Hailey Gillis and Andrew Chown. The two are exquisite, encompassing whole heartedly the ideal levels of naiveté, youthful vigour, and desire; their scenes together were the absolute highlight of the production and left you wanting more. The productPhoto credit - David Cooper and Emily Cooperion as a whole had a vigorously youthful energy, featured prominently in such characters as Mercutio & Benvolio (in two hilarious performances by Andrew McNee and Ben Elliot), and the Nurse, played by the fantastic Jennifer Lines.  The music (designed by Brian Linds) was breathtaking and poignant, intensely moving and emotionally charged, and brought the tender moments of the production to a new level.

    Perhaps the key to Romeo and Juliet’s eternal life is exactly this youthful energy captured by Bard’s production; the characters’ optimism in the face of hardship, their devotion in the face of adversity. And perhaps these traits are exactly what we need to survive the modern dating world….leaving aside the poison.

     

    Romeo and Juliet plays on the BMO Mainstage at Vanier Park as part of the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, until September 23. Tickets and information at bardonthebeach.org

     

  • Friday, May 13, 2016 12:00 PM | GVPTA (Administrator)
    Always…Patsy Cline by Ted Swindley

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Trilby Jeeves


    I went to the opening night of “Always…Patsy Cline” because I knew my friend had a good role in the show and I enjoy supporting the company First Impressions Theatre as they’re pretty special people. As the lights dimmed, I leaned over to my friend and whispered, “I hate country music.” He whispered back, “You’re in the wrong place.” I settled in, despite my attitude.

    Well… that attitude was gone in seconds. My friend pointed to my foot that refused to stop moving and he raised his eyebrow at me. Busted. I LOVED this show. I had so much fun.

    Always…Patsy Cline, fabulously directed by Claude A. Giroux, written by Ted Swindley, musically directed by Gordon Roberts and Leigh Richards Stewart, and produced by Eileen and Michael Smith of First Impressions Theatre of Deep Cove, features the skills and talent of actresses Colleen Rae Lornie (Patsy Cline) and Louise Porter (adoring fan, Louise Segar), and the band: Ed Fabian, Shawn Salsiccioli, Steve Taillefer, Barb Dominik and Skip Parker. Of course, behind the scenes is a production team that more than supported the beautiful setting of this colourful piece.

    Like I said, I had fun. I also learned more about an artist who was vaguely in my psyche. In fact, I found myself singing along (quietly) and wondered why I knew so many songs. Colleen Rae filled the role of Patsy Cline with such a lovely sensibility and mesmerized me by her deep commitment to some of the strikingly sad lyrics. Her counterpart generously played by Louise Porter was equally passionate and full of love for Patsy Cline. She was funny as heck but don’t underestimate her comedy; bring tissues, too. 

    When I got home, I researched Patsy Cline and found out that her music managed to cross over the country/pop boundaries. This was rare for that type of music and also rare for a woman. She became a significant inspiration for many women singers and was awarded several times, even after her untimely tragic death.

    Thank you to Ted Swindley for writing this beautiful piece that honours and entertains simultaneously. Thank you to First Impressions for choosing another play that makes me think AND tap my toes. I’m a new fan of Patsy Cline, 60 years later, and I can only imagine that a deep fan of Patsy Cline would drool over this show. I did.

    And…. Vive le Théâtre!

     

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