Vancouver

Why I don’t like Orphans is a little perplexing and therefore worth pursuing. It is a play for three actors on a single set, making it attractive to budget-conscious producers.

It affords each of the actors ample opportunity to plumb emotional and occasionally comic heights and depths, in fact, it is very much an ‘actor’s play’ that should stand or fall on the merits of the acting. I’m not sure that that is enough. Or perhaps it is the style of the play that falls short – I’m not talking about this production by new company WINK...

orphans, they just need a squeeze on the shoulder

A play that is simply staged with few props, Sour Brides production of So Many Doors begins, well, at the beginning: a giant sepia mobile hangs above the stage while below it the four actors, each with only a chair, start their baby lives to its tinny wind up tune. As the movement work builds through each stage of development, one actor kneels in prayer; all look anxious.

The actors come into their adult form, each bringing their chair downstage. They are two thirty-something Yukon couples in a grief support group for parents whose children have died....

Riding George Clooney

In a Philadelphia apartment strewn with outdated furniture, clothes and debris live Treat (Andrew McNee) and Philip (Michael Rinaldi), brothers orphaned at a young age and left to fend for themselves. Now grown up, Treat, the older and more aggressive of the two, provides for himself and his agoraphobic brother with petty thievery, while the latter indulges in his penchant for tuna, mayonnaise, and Errol Flynn movies.

This arrangement is disrupted with the arrival of Harold (Michael Charrois). At first kidnapped for ransom by Treat, Harold instead becomes the Alpha male of the household, taking on a fatherly role with...

These Orphans are Michael Rinaldi, Andrew McNee, Michael Charrois; Photo: Damon Calderwood

In April 14, 1912 two actor/dancers (Patrick Conner and Matthew Romantini) play the Marconi officers on board the Titanic– it is a time before cell phones, before even ship-to-shore telephones – anything that needs to be said to someone not on board the ship must flow through these two conduits of communication, as a result they become custodians of the most intimate and prosaic messages: “I love you”, or “I forgot to water the geraniums”.

The third actor/dancer, Lucy Rupert, plays the doomed ship herself and therein (perhaps) lays a flaw in conception. The story of the Titanic – as...

titanic, would you board her? Photo Credit: Lindsay Anne Black

Here’s a sobering fact about my allotted time on this planet: I was alive while the residential school system was in place in this country.

While I was growing up in the safe prosperity of multi-cultural Vancouver, other children – Canadian children – were being seized from their families and taken to church-run residential schools. The objective of these schools was assimilation and the outcome was often widespread physical and sexual abuse, not to mention dislocation from family and community. It is inconceivable to me that this country – you know the one championing human rights under Pearson and Trudeau...

where the blood mixes

It wasn’t lightly that I walked into Performance Works Theatre, knowing I was attending a performance about genocide. I tried to be good humored about it: “Ta-tah, off to see a little play about human atrocity – see you tomorrow!” I exclaimed to my colleagues as I left the office.

However, I was drawn to Goodness as soon as I read about it - morality is the principal theme broached in this production by Toronto-based company Volcano, with genocide used as a narrative to discuss this weighty subject. As a person generally inquisitive about the human condition, I instantly gravitated...

Goodness

Strips of white elastic hang from the ceiling. They create an ever-changing backdrop which sometimes feels like a forest, sometimes like a curtain drawn to give us sight into Townsville - a small town filled with the remaining few survivors from some unspoken world disaster. Townsville brings forth what the world would be like if it were run by a gaggle of showboaty teenagers. Sometimes insightful, sometimes self-centered, but always a full character exploration.

The town is a supposed utopia whose joy revolves around their beloved mascot, Sylvia the invisible elephant. All is well until Ariel, a.k.a. “Applebottom” (Ella Simon),...

Townsville, they've got talent on a string

Michael Redhill's play Goodness is partly inspired by the genocide in Rwanda, as the program notes explain. Yet the veteran Toronto playwright has chosen to craft a script where the conversations about goodness, war, ethics and revenge, could apply to any of the genocides that have happened in the last century.

A version of Redhill's self, a Michael played by Gord Rand, goes to Poland in search of those who might remember what times were like when his Jewish forbears were murdered in a town square. He's mocked - it was your tragedy? you weren't even alive! - and finds...

Goodness

For me, the success of April 14, 1912 hangs on two death scenes. One is of a man, the 1st Marconi (telegraph) Officer on board the Titanic (Matthew Romantini), drowning in the sea. Both legs and one hand are on the bare stage floor, but the rest of his body is convincingly in an environment hostile to human life. And he surrenders to it at last.

The second death scene feels about 12 minutes long, and in a 60-minute piece, that's forever. A woman in the remnants of a sea-green gown, covered in barnacles and dripping seaweed, slowly, agonizingly, sinks...

April 14, 1912; photo credit: Lindsay Anne Black

All the previous Magnetic North Festivals have featured a production showcasing the students and emerging artists of the host city. This year, it’s the turn of Vancouver’s The Chop Theatre in a co-production with Studio 58, Langara’s well-regarded theatre program. The Chop are probably the coolest of the younger generation of theatre companies in Vancouver.

While they are probably best known for the Patti Fedy plays that were huge Fringe hits, it is their more recent work that is most interesting, including 2 Truths + 1 Lie = Proof (presented by Rumble at the...

Townsville, where's sylvia?

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