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Arts Club

Review: Misery

BY SHERI RADFORD

Apr. 2018

Andrew McNee and Lucia Frangione. Set design by Lauchlin Johnston, costume design by Stephanie Kong, and lighting design by Andrew Pye. Photo by David Cooper.

It’s hard to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. And when those shoes belong to an Oscar-winning powerhouse such as Kathy Bates, the challenge is multiplied. Fortunately, Lucia Frangione is more than up to the task. She slips into the part of “number one fan” Annie Wilkes with a crazed gleam in her eye and fully inhabits the role, making it her own without ever veering into creepy caricature. (more…)

Review: The Humans

BY SHERI RADFORD

Apr. 2018

The cast of The Humans. Set design by Drew Facey, costume design by Jenifer Darbellay, and lighting design by Adrian Muir. Photo by David Cooper.

It’s Thanksgiving, and Brigid and boyfriend Richard are hosting the big holiday dinner for the first time, in their new apartment. Deidre, Brigid’s mother, is none too pleased about her daughter’s loud apartment with no view—or about the fact that Brigid doesn’t have a ring on her finger yet. Erik, Brigid’s father, is perpetually distracted. Aimee, Brigid’s sister, pines for her ex-girlfriend while struggling with an impending job loss and impending major surgery. Momo, Brigid’s grandmother, suffers from dementia and spends the evening in a wheelchair, occasionally yelling random words and knocking objects off the table. (more…)

Review: Forget About Tomorrow

BY SHERI RADFORD

Time is running out to see Forget About Tomorrow, a new play by actor and writer Jill Daum. She drew upon her real-life experience of having her husband—John Mann, lead singer of Spirit of the West—diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s to craft a story that is equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious.

Jennifer Lines and Craig Erickson. Set and costume design by Pam Johnson and lighting design by Bryan Kenney. Photo by David Cooper.

Craig Erickson plays Tom, a therapist who’s been feeling confused and fuzzy-headed. The always wonderful Jennifer Lines portrays Jane, his wife. When Alzheimer’s falls into their lives like a bomb, Tom is overwhelmed by fear and anger at the future he’s lost, while Jane briefly turns to Wayne, a new acquaintance, for comfort. Hrothgar Mathews brings a warmth and humanity to this role, which all too easily could have turned into a stereotypical sleazy seducer.

Hrothgar Mathews and Jennifer Lines. Set and costume design by Pam Johnson and lighting design by Bryan Kenney. Photo by David Cooper.

Rounding out the cast are Colleen Wheeler as Jane’s boss, Lori—a whirlwind of activity and profanity, who gets all of the biggest laughs—and Aren Okemaysim and Aleita Northey as Jane and Tom’s almost-adult children who appear mainly through projected video calls.

Jennifer Lines and Colleen Wheeler. Set and costume design by Pam Johnson and lighting design by Bryan Kenney. Photo by David Cooper.

Don’t miss this funny, moving show, which runs to March 25, 2018, at the Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre.

Review: Topdog/Underdog

January 2018

By Sheri Radford

Luc Roderique and Michael Blake. Set design by Shizuoka Kai, costume design by Carmen Alatorre, and lighting design by Itai Erdal. Photo by David Cooper.

“Watch me close, watch me close now. Who see the red card, who see the red card? I see the red card. The red card is the winner. Pick the red card, you pick a winner. Pick a black card, you pick a loser.” So begins Topdog/Underdog, with a card-hustle chant that repeats and echoes throughout the play, underscoring the theme of winners and losers.

Lincoln (Michael Blake) and Booth (Luc Roderique) are brothers whose father, in a sick but seemingly prescient joke, named them after Abraham Lincoln and his assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Blake and Roderique both turn in powerhouse performances as the constantly sparring brothers.

Michael Blake and Luc Roderique. Set design by Shizuoka Kai, costume design by Carmen Alatorre, and lighting design by Itai Erdal. Photo by David Cooper.

Lincoln used to be the king of three-card Monte, but he left the game after tragedy struck. For years he followed the rules, making a living by portraying Honest Abe—in white face, no less—for tourists pretending to be John Wilkes Booth and firing blanks at the president. But then his wife booted him out and now he lives with his brother in a shabby rooming house.

Unemployed Booth shoplifts to survive. He practises his three-card Monte patter and pines for his on-again-off-again girlfriend Grace (who’s never seen onstage) while begging Lincoln to teach him the cards.

Who will emerge as top dog in their turbulent relationship and who will be the underdog? And can a black man ever truly be top dog in a world rigged towards whites? Those are just a few of the questions this Pulitzer Prize–winning play explores. See it until Feb. 11 at the Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre.

Michael Blake and Luc Roderique. Set design by Shizuoka Kai, costume design by Carmen Alatorre, and lighting design by Itai Erdal. Photo by David Cooper.

Review: Onegin

BY SHERI RADFORD

Dec. 2017

Alessandro Juliani, Caitriona Murphy, Meg Roe and Lauren Jackson in the 2017 production of Onegin. Costume design by Jacqueline Firkins. Set design by Drew Facey. Lighting design by John Webber. Photo by David Cooper.

When a new musical premieres to rave reviews, scooping up every local theatre award in the process, it’s hard to imagine any subsequent performances living up to all the hoopla. But the new production of Onegin at the Granville Island Stage succeeds.

The cast of Onegin in the 2017 production. Costume design by Jacqueline Firkins. Set design by Drew Facey. Lighting design by John Webber. Photo by David Cooper.

Alessandro Juliani is absolutely riveting as the self-centred Evgeni Onegin. His real-life wife, Meg Roe, lights up the stage as Tatyana Larin. Josh Epstein is pitch-perfect as Onegin’s friend Vladimir Lensky. Rounding out the stellar cast are Lauren Jackson, Caitriona Murphy, Andrew Wheeler and Andrew McNee, each switching seamlessly between various roles that demand singing, dancing, comedy and drama.

Lauren Jackson and Josh Epstein in the 2017 production of Onegin. Costume design by Jacqueline Firkins. Set design by Drew Facey. Lighting design by John Webber. Photo by David Cooper.

Don’t miss Onegin, at the Granville Island Stage to Dec. 31, 2017.

Review: The Day Before Christmas

BY SHERI RADFORD

The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most stressful time, especially for a perfectionist such as Alex (played with frazzled flawlessness by Jennifer Copping). Alex clings to her over-the-top Christmas traditions while juggling her demanding job as a caterer, the reappearance of an old flame, and ever-escalating family drama.

Paul Herbert and Jennifer Copping. Set design by Drew Facey, costume design by Carmen Alatorre, and lighting design by Itai Erdal. Photo by David Cooper.

As portrayed by Paul Herbert, hapless husband Alan tries and fails repeatedly to make his wife happy. Stressed-out daughter Brodie (Julie Leung) and blasé son Max (Daren Dyhengco) walk around in self-absorbed bubbles, as only teenagers can. Thanks to some technical wizardry, clueless brother Keith (Jay Hindle) appears intermittently via Skype to mess up Alex’s holiday plans further. Brodie’s friend Dirk (played by charming scene-stealer Curtis Tweedie) appears on stage quite late in the play to complicate matters even more.

Julie Leung and Curtis Tweedie. Set design by Drew Facey, costume design by Carmen Alatorre, and lighting design by Itai Erdal. Photo by David Cooper.

Just when Alex’s perfect holiday seems entirely ruined, spoiler alert: a Christmas miracle happens.

After its well-received premiere last year, The Day Before Christmas (Nov. 16 to Dec. 24, 2017) returns to the Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre for another zany run. Its gentle humour will appeal to anyone who’s ever become frustrated enough over a broken ornament or ruined holiday dinner to announce, “I quit!”

Review: Thanks for Giving

By SHERI RADFORD

Oct. 2017

Caacumh – Aaron M. Wells, Tom McBeath, Deneh’Cho Thompson, Leslie Dos Remedies, Tai Amy Grumman and Margo Kane in Thanks for Giving. Photo by Emily Cooper.

Like many Thanksgiving feasts, this one is stuffed a bit too full for comfort, though it does ultimately satisfy. Written and directed by Governor General’s Award–winner Kevin Loring, Thanks for Giving tells the story of Nan (Margo Kane) and her family. Nan is a First Nations woman whose second husband, Clifford (Tom McBeath), is a white man and avid hunter who never even attempts to understand the issues facing Indigenous people. Nan’s daughter, Sue (Andrea Menard), battles addiction and pain of both the physical and physiological varieties. Nan’s grandchildren John (caacumhi – Aaron M. Wells), Clayton (Deneh’Cho Thompson) and Marie (Tai Amy Grauman) each have their own demons to face. Also taking a place at the strife-filled Thanksgiving table is Sam (Leslie Dos Remedios), Marie’s lesbian lover who is posing as her roommate.

Shyama-Priya and Tom McBeath in Thanks for Giving. Photo by Emily Cooper.

The action kicks off with Clifford shooting a bear, an act that has repercussions both in the family and in the greater world, as Clifford ultimately faces prison time and a fine substantial enough to bankrupt the family. The first act takes place during one long Thanksgiving dinner full of drama and revealed secrets, while the second act skips through the following years. Throughout the two-hour run time, the play examines issues relating to the treatment of Indigenous people, Native storytelling traditions, the lingering effects of intergenerational trauma, homosexuality, family secrets, addiction, violence, colonialism and more—a lot to swallow, indeed. Thanks for Giving is at its best when showing small, relatable family interactions, especially involving the stellar Margo Kane, whose deadpan delivery garners huge laughs, and her on-stage husband, Tom McBeath. But the play falters when it veers into lecture territory, in particular one long diatribe delivered by Tai Amy Grauman over the dinner table, which feels like it was lifted directly from a university textbook. Despite these flaws, the play is such an enjoyable meal overall that it might even be worth a second helping.

Margo Kane and Tom McBeath in Thanks for Giving. Photo by Emily Cooper.

The world premiere of Thanks for Giving runs until Nov. 4 on the Granville Island Stage.