Learn about The Birds & The Bees at The Arts Club

Turkey Semen, Beekeeping, Mothers & Daughters, , One Night Stands, N.S.A. Sex are just some of the unexpected topics found in The Birds & The Bees by Mark Crawford. The Canadian comedy is filling The Arts Club Granville Island Stage with laughter.

The Birds & The Bees is really a story about rolling with the punches. We never know what life is going to throw at you, how people react to expected turns defines their character, and in the case of this play, provide plenty of laughs and heart.

Centred on the strained relationship between, Gail (Susinn McFarlen) and her newly separated daughter Sarah (Dawn Petten), The Birds & The Bees takes place in just two upstairs bedrooms of Gail’s farmhouse as Sarah tries to move home after leaving her Turkey-farmer husband. The sudden change in living arrangements through both ladies’ lives in disarray. Things are complicated further by the arrival of university researcher Ben (Christopher Allen), here to study why Gail’s honey bees are dying, something she blames on the pesticides used by her tenant farmer Earl (Tom McBeath).

The intergenerational cast of The Birds & The Bees also shows that ages is really just a number, as the characters find new life and sexual awakening in their changing circumstances. From the audience’s reaction, who could clearly see themselves in at least one of the characters, it was easy to see that embracing their sexual side, at any age, was a welcome topic. Although the play finds them in plenty of slapstick situations, the four actors brought depth and heart to these roles, showing a great connection with each other as well as, the audience.

As the action, and Sarah, moves out of Gail’s house, the play wraps up but the audience would clearly like a sequel to follow up on the further adventures of Gail, Sarah, Earl and Ben.

The Birds & The Bees runs until October 26, 2019 at The Arts Club Granville Island Stage. For showtimes and tickets visit: artsclub.com

A Thousand Splendid Suns Opens The Arts Club Season

The Arts Club Theatre Company’s 56th Season opened with A Thousand Splendid Suns at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre.

Written by Ursula Rani Sarma is based on the acclaimed book by Khaled Hosseini A Thousand Splendid Suns is a richly crafted drama, spanning the years from the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan to the rise of the Taliban. Following the lives of two women, of different generations and backgrounds, thrown together by life’s circumstances, A Thousand Splendid Suns tells a family story of mothers and daughters.

Young Laila, (Anita Majumdar) left orphaned when a shell lands on her family home, is rescued from the rubble by neighbour Rasheed… but as he takes her as a second wife, what did he actually rescue her from?
Mariam, (Deena Aziz) Rasheed’s first wife, was essentially orphaned as well, having been sent away by her birth father after the death of her mother, with whom she lived in isolation due to being a result of an affair.
When they’re thrown together as the abusive Rasheed’s wives, animosity is too kind of a word for their relationship. After Laila gives birth, much to Rasheed’s disappointment, to a girl, the ladies start to warm. In a role that would have easily strayed into an angry caricature, Anousha Alamian plays Rasheed with a sense of genuine misogyny from a broken man grasping to maintain his status in the world.

With the background of the war torn country, Rasheed’s growing sympathies to the new Taliban regime, and abusive treatment of his wives, the real power of A Thousand Splendid Suns is the relationship between the two ladies. Mariam and Laila become like mother and daughter, sometimes alternating between the roles. Throughout the play we learn more of the ladies’ backstories through flashback scenes .

In spite of the action being brutal and violent at times, the play somehow maintains a sense of calm. Mses. Majumdar and Aziz deliver a genuine rapport that shifts from antagonistic to loving. The characters keep their heads and present a peaceful front as though nothing more can surprise them after all they’re lived through. Ken MacDonald’s beautiful set, Robert Wierzel’s lighting and David Coulter’s music combine to add subtle emotion throughout the acts.

The Arts Club Theatre Company, with Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, presents A Thousand Splendid Suns until October 13, 2019 at Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre. Showtimes, and tickets are available online at artsclub.com

The Matchmaker makes her match at The Arts Club

Say hello to the famed matchmaking busybody Dolly Gallagher Levi as The Matchmaker brings her to The Arts Club Theatre Company Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage. Thorton Wilder’s 1954 comedy served as the inspiration for the iconic musical Hello Dolly!, which turned Dolly Levi into a legendary role.

In The Arts Club Theatre Company’s The Matchmaker, director Ashlie Corcoran, guides an ensemble of 14 actors playing 16 characters through a maze of forbidden love, mistaken identities, madcap adventures and hysterical hijinx, resulting in much spontaneous laughter and applause from the audience throughout the performance.

Nicole Lipman as Dolly Levi
photo: David Cooper

While Nicole Lipman’s Dolly stirs the plot and characters with her cunning charm, it’s cantankerous Horace Vandergelder, played by Ric Reid, who sets the wheels in motion as the other characters seek to avoid or win “the first citizen of Yonkers'” favour. Whether it’s trying to keep his niece Ermengarde (Julie Leung) from marrying artist Ambrose Kemper (Nadeem Phillip), keep his love interest Mrs Molloy on a string whilst there is another potential suitor, or keep his employees in check in spite of their desire for adventure, Mr Vandergelder never quite succeeds with Dolly really pulling the strings.

The Matchmaker
photo: David Cooper

As the characters move the action from Yonkers “where nothing ever happens”, to New York City, Mrs Molloy (Naomi Wright) and her flighty shop assistance Minnie (Georgia Beaty) are the first bold flashes of colour both in character, costume and setting of her millinery shop. When they stumble into the shop, the ladies awaken something within Mr. Vandergelder’s naive shop clerks, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker. Played with leading-man charm and charisma by Tyrone Savage and wide-eyed innocence by Daniel Doheny, respectively, the gentlemen were seeking an adventure and found much more than they bargained for, or could afford, but in Dolly’s world everything has a way of working out, for everyone.

Throughout the adventure we meet an assortment of colourful characters each with their own over-the-top eccentricities. The audience becomes a 17th character when many of the characters break the fourth wall to speak directly to the room; sharing their feelings, or words of wisdom albeit when coming from drunkard Malachi Stack, hilariously played by Scott Bellis, they might be taken with a shot of whiskey. With so much happening on stage, the whole performance moves like a dance as players move in, out and over the sets and costumes on their way to happily ever after.

Drew Facey’s beautiful production design creates a world, with four distinct sets, reminiscent of The Gilded Age but with hints of modernity in the set decorations and costumes that make it a world all its own. The set and costumes lends just enough realism to ground the show but the colourful winks and whimsy fit perfectly with the absurdity of the farce. If you listen closely, you’ll also note that the music doesn’t fit the period but does fit the characters, with a short nod to Hello Dolly!, as well.

Experience the laughter for yourself as The Matchmaker plays at The Arts Club Theatre Company Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until February 24, 2019. Visit artsclub.com for tickets and showtimes.

Go On A Blind Date at The Arts Club BMO Stage

Just like a true blind date, with Blind Date at The Arts Club Theatre Company BMO Stage what’s about to unfold is a mystery.

The premise of the mainly improvised Blind Date is a blind date between a couple, who don’t know each other.  In this case, they really do not know each other, the male partner is selected from the audience to go on the date with Mimi (played in this performance by Tess Degenstein).   During a pre-show mingle the cast; Degenstein, Lili Beaudoin, Ali Froggatt (who all play Mimi on different nights) and Jeff Gladstone, get to know the audience.  People putting themselves (or being pushed) forward to participate in Blind Date.  Starting out a small cafe the date progresses through the course of the evening.

On this night, recently-married Ben, a 30something construction manager, has been selected, after prodding from wife Megan. The uncomfortable awkwardness that Ben feels makes for some nervous laughter and outright hilarity.  While Mimi asks him about himself, Ben loosens up and shares more about his life, which allows a seasoned improvisor like Tess Degenstein to grab tidbits to keep the play humourously moving along on its loose outline.

As skilled as she is, her scene partner is the key to the success of the show, I’m sure in the 700+ performances the troupe has completed there have been more than a few ‘dates’ that have gone awry.  Anything can happen in improv and in this performance, the quantity of beer that Ben consumed, smartly used to avoid answering or to allow himself time to think of an answer, became part of the show.  Late in the play Ben was forced to make a trip to the washroom, a first amongst Blind Date performances according to Degenstein.

The skill of the cast to improvise and roll with the punches ensures that each night is a fresh and unique performance. Check out Blind Date more than once to find out how different guest performers and different Mimis influence the outcome of your blind date experience.

Blind Date plays until December 30, 2018 at Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre, 162 East 1st Avenue. Showtimes and Tickets available online at artsclub.com


Arts Club Theatre Company : Once

Gili Roskies & Adrian Glynn McMorran
photo: Emily Cooper

Once is definitely not enough when it comes to seeing Arts Club Theatre Company’s Once, now playing at the Granville Island Stage.  The final show of the season, and for Artist Director Bill Millerd’s 45 season reign as the guiding force of the Art Club, certainly makes a memorable impact.

The heartwarming and heartbreaking story of Guy meets Girl, based on the 2007 film of the same name, takes the audience on a journey filled with music, laughter, melancholy, romance and inspiration.  Known only as Girl (an ‘honest’ Czech aspiring pianist, played by Gili Roskies) and Guy (a struggling Dublin musician, played by Adrian Glynn McMorran), our leads’ meet cute involves busking and a Hoover.  That oddball scenario, foretells the unique show that’s to come.  While Girl struggles with her feelings for Guy and loyalty to her estranged husband, she champions Guy to never give up on his heart and music.  Once would be nothing without that music, written by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglova (the original film’s leads) the heartfelt songs stand-out like a third lead; moving the story along, connecting the characters and allowing Guy and Girl to sing what they can’t say.

To help bring the duo’s musical aspirations to a fruition, a company of colourful characters gather; both Czechs and the Irish play multiple instruments, dance, and sing often all at the same time.  While all the company are solid; stand outs include Chris Cochrane as Billy the music shop owner and admirer of Girl, who plays well off of the always solid Caitriona Murphy.  There are a couple moments when the Irish accents sound a bit like their protecting their Lucky Charms, but it’s not enough to distract from the feeling that the audience is a Dublin pub with the company.  Set designer Ted Roberts makes the most of the small Granville Island stage to recreate the feeling of an Irish Pub, which is open to the audience for on stage drinks and a kitchen party style opening jam session that leads into the show.  From this lively opening to the emotional Academy Award winning song “Falling Slowly”, Once moves us and makes us cheer for Guy and Girls’ relationship and leaves us fulfilled but wanting to know the rest of their stories.

See it once or often but definitely see it before it’s gone.  Once is playing at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage until July 29, 2018.

Blood Brothers – Arts Club Theatre

Now playing at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage, Blood Brothers is a tale of nature vs nurture told in a musical retelling of the Alexandre Dumas tale, The Corsican Brothers.  Set initially in the working class industrial slums of 1960’s Liverpool the first act centers around single-mother of 7, Mrs Johnstone who, barely able to feed her family, works as a cleaner for the wealthy but childless, Mr & Mrs Lyons.  Finding out she is pregnant with twins, she is distraught at the prospect of two more mouths to feed, so reluctantly she agrees to secretly give one twin away to Mrs Lyons. This begins the diverse upbringing of the two boys, one in poverty, the other in privilege. However, different their circumstances they still manage to find each other and become “blood brothers” and best friends. Their live intertwine for the next 20 years until they meet a tragic and fateful demise brought about by their mothers; one in an attempt to separate them and the other to bond them.
The Willy Russell musical was first brought to the stage in London in 1983 when the poverty of 60’s and recession of the 80’s, as represented in the play, were still fresh in people’s memories. This production’s stage design well represent these eras and the cast do a valiant job of keeping their accents authentic to the region and class. Leads Terra C. MacLeod as Mrs Johnstone and John Mann (Spirit of the West) as Narrator provide  anchors to the production, each contributing strong vocals and presence when onstage, which is most of the time.  Adam Charles and Shane Snow play separated twins Eddie Lyons and Mickey Johnstone both doing capable jobs as they age from 7 to 20.  With the entire cast made up of just 12 players they almost all do double duty playing multiple parts of the ensemble.  While the staging and eras are no longer up to date the story is timeless and told in a timeless manner and provides an enjoyable evening out.

Blood Brothers runs until December 31, 2011 at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage. Tickets can be purchased online or by phone 604.687.1644