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live theatre

Review: Mustard

By SHERI RADFORD

Heidi Damayo and Andrew McNee. Set design by Kevin McAllister, costume design by Carmen Alatorre, and lighting design by Alan Brodie. Photo by Mark Halliday.

Time is running out to see Mustard. This darkly funny play centres on 16-year-old Thai (Heidi Damayo) and her imaginary friend, Mustard (Andrew McNee). Though Thai is almost grown and it’s clearly time for Mustard to move on, he’s reluctant to leave Thai and her mother, Sadie (Jenny Wasko-Paterson), who are struggling to cope after the departure of Thai’s father. McNee brings his usual comedic brilliance to a role that demands a huge emotional range, from comic pratfalls to existential angst. Damayo and Wasko-Paterson deliver solid performances as a daughter and mother caught in grief and constant conflict. Less successful are the secondary characters: Chirag Naik as Jay, the histrionic boyfriend, and Shekhar Paleja and Brett Harris as a pair of fantastical goons with a puzzling penchant for both light-hearted wordplay and gory violence. Although uneven, the show is entertaining throughout.

Chirag Naik, Heidi Damayo, and Jenny Wasko-Paterson. Set design by Kevin McAllister, costume design by Carmen Alatorre, and lighting design by Alan Brodie. Photo by Mark Halliday.

Written by Kat Sandler, Mustard won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play in 2016. It runs until Oct. 20, 2018, at the Granville Island Stage.

Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time

BY Sheri Radford

Sep. 2018

 

Photo by David Cooper

Getting inside the head of someone with autism is a daunting task. Author Mark Haddon more than rose to the challenge in his bestselling novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time, which follows an autistic teenager trying to unravel the mystery of who killed the neighbour’s dog. The brilliant stage adaptation that followed dominated the Tony, Olivier and Drama Desk awards in 2015.

Photo by David Cooper

Now the Arts Club has opened its 55th season with a stellar production of the innovative play. The cast is uniformly excellent, but standouts include Daniel Doheny as the central character of Christopher, who struggles with everything in the world around him; Todd Thomson as Christopher’s gruff father, Ed, who loves and is frustrated by his son in equal measure; and Ghazal Azarbad as Siobhan, Christopher’s eternally patient teacher and the play’s de facto narrator. The story plays out against a minimalist set that transforms seamlessly from bedroom to school to London Tube station. And the special effects include the most entertaining solution to a math problem ever presented on stage.

Photo by David Cooper

The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time runs to Oct. 7, 2018, at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.

TheatreSports Delivers Local Laughs

By SHERI RADFORD

Photo courtesy Vancouver TheatreSports

To Sep. 1, 2018 Do you know how to downward dog without spilling your venti decaf soy latte? Do you belong to a drum circle? Have you ever been renovicted? Do you complain about rain but also temperatures above 25 degrees? Do you cycle to work every day in a bike lane wearing gear purchased at MEC? Have you ever been caught in a traffic jam caused by waddling Canada geese, big white film trucks or a 420 protest?

Congratulations, you must be a Vancouverite.

The only known remedy is a healthy dose of self-deprecating laughter. That’s where Vancouver TheatreSports comes in. Their summer show, Avocado Toast – Vancouver Grown, Organic Free-Range Comedy, pokes fun at everything from local fitness trends and Carly Rae Jepsen to Car2Go and hiking the Grouse Grind. At the Improv Centre.

Photo courtesy Vancouver TheatreSports

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: Fun Home

February 2018

By Sheri Radford

Sara-Jeanne Hosie, Eric Craig, and Jaime MacLean. Set design by Amir Ofek, costume design by Amy McDougall, and lighting design by Alan Brodie. Photo by David Cooper.

A funeral home may seem like a strange place to set a musical, but that’s not the end of strange things afoot in Fun Home, the Tony Award–winning show based on the popular memoir/graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. As a grown-up Alison looks back on her childhood years and first months away at university, her English-teacher father’s troubling behaviour makes more sense in retrospect. His interest in his young male students. His trouble with the law. His ultimate suicide shortly after Alison comes out as a lesbian. And, permeating all of Alison’s memories, her mother’s unhappiness.

Glen Gordon, Nolan Dubuc, and Jaime MacLean. Set design by Amir Ofek, costume design by Amy McDougall, and lighting design by Alan Brodie. Photo by David Cooper.

Jaime MacLean portrays the youngest version of Alison with a charm and talent that belie her young age. She, along with her two perky onstage siblings (played by Glen Gordon and Nolen Dubuc), brings the house down with a showstopper of a rendition of “Come to the Fun Home” (“We take dead bodies every day of the week / So you’ve got no reason to roam / Use the Bechdel Funeral Home”).

Kelli Ogmundson and Sara-Jeanne Hosie. Set design by Amir Ofek, costume design by Amy McDougall, and lighting design by Alan Brodie. Photo by David Cooper.

Kelli Ogmundson brings a touching honestly to the portrayal of university-aged Alison, especially in “Changing My Major,” sung immediately after her first sexual experience with another woman. Adult Alison, in the ever-capable hands of Sara-Jeanne Hosie, is the perfect combination of confident yet still haunted by memories. Eric Craig deftly handles the most challenging role in the show, that of Alison’s tormented father. Rounding out the cast are Janet Gigliotti as Alison’s long-suffering mother, who shines in the gut-wrenching “Days and Days;” Sara Vickruck, a veritable force of nature in the role of Joan, Alison’s first love; and Nick Fontaine in a handful of smaller roles.

Despite its heartbreaking subject matter, Fun Home is a hilarious show filled with tunes that get toes tapping. Don’t miss it, at the Granville Island Stage until March 10.

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: Almost, Maine

BY SHERI RADFORD

The cast of Almost, Maine.

What happens when we open our hearts? That’s the question at the core of Almost, Maine, a quirky play set in small-town Maine.

Starring five actors who portray 19 characters, this cozy anthology explores every aspect of romance, from infatuation to heartbreak. Covering romantic ground familiar to anyone who’s ever watched the yuletide favourite Love Actually, this play handles the frequent changes in tone, from sweet to funny to bitter, more skilfully than its celluloid counterpart. The playwright even deftly sneaks in a charming tale of two male friends falling—quite literally—in love.

The ensemble cast is uniformly excellent, but special kudos go to Kim Larson and Peter Carlone for bringing to life the most memorable (and hilarious) characters.

Kim Larson and Peter Carlone. Photo by Ron Reed.

Catch all the magic to Dec. 16, 2017, at Pacific Theatre.

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: King Charles III

Ted Cole and Gwynyth Walsh in King Charles III. Photo by David Cooper.

“The queen is dead. Long live the king.”

Playwright Mike Bartlett imagines a not-so-distant future in which Queen Elizabeth II has died and Charles is crowned king. Shakespearean DNA runs through the very core of the play, from the regal themes to the script written in blank verse. Charles (played Ted Cole) evokes a sense of Hamlet, while Prince William (Oliver Rice) and Kate (Katherine Gauthier) seem to be channelling the power-hungry Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Prince Harry (Charlie Gallant) and his friends evoke Prince Hal and Falstaff’s merry antics. There’s even a ghost (of Diana, played by Lauren Bowler).

Though billed as a “jovial political satire,” the play seems more sombre than wittily satirical. Problematic pacing contributes to a run time of almost three hours, draining much energy from the actors’ performances. Tweaking and tightening might have made King Charles III live up to the Bard’s blueprint for entertainment that is simultaneously amusing and thought-provoking.

The sets, designed by Kevin McAllister, are a real standout.

The cast of King Charles III. Photo by David Cooper.

Costume designer Christopher David Gauthier also deserves special mention.

Lauren Bowler in King Charles III. Photo by David Cooper.

King Charles III runs to Nov. 19, 2017 at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.