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

 

Celebrate the Season with Miss Bennet : Christmas At Pemberley

The Arts Club Theatre Company welcomes the holiday season with the opening of Miss Bennet : Christmas At Pemberley, playing at Granville Island Stage until December 30, 2018.

The seasonal sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice revisits the Bennet sisters, focusing on the bookish, unmarried middle sister Mary (Kate Dion-Richard).  Written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, Miss Bennet : Christmas At Pemberley casts a modern eye on the sisters, and their lot in life.  To celebrate a family Christmas, three sisters arrive early to Pemberley, the country home of Mr Darcy (Chris Walters) and wife, Elizabeth (Lauren Jackson), the second eldest of the sisters. Jane (Leslie Dos Remedios), the eldest, pregnant and married to Charles Bingley (Tim Carlson), is supported on the journey by Mary, the spinster sister.  Lydia (Baraka Rahmani) is the younger flighty, vain sister, stuck in an unhappy marriage.  Mary is bold, forthright and tactless but also saddened by being the unmarried sister, burdened with caring for their parents. Left to be comforted by her books and pianoforte she starts to find discontent in her expected role within the family.  Suddenly her world is thrown for a turn with the arrival of equally bookish, nervous Lord Arthur (Matthew MacDonald-Bain), Darcy’s distant cousin.  In Lord Arthur we see Mary has met her match in brains, tact, and experience with the world.  Throw in an unexpected romantic rival (Carmela Sison), and the situation lends itself to camp comedy of classes and the sexes.

While never quite fully realizing the farce, the likes of Oscar Wilde, Miss Bennet does allow this cast to chew the scenery as they spit out fun, fast paced comedy. The scenery by Ted Roberts is a beautiful re-creation of the Pemberley country house drawing room.  Director Roy Surette keeps the pace and the eight characters in motion like a dance to the sounds of Mary’s pianoforte.  Like all good Holiday stories, Miss Bennet : Christmas At Pemberley wraps itself in a ribbon of happy endings for all.

Miss Bennet : Christmas At Pemberley runs at The Arts Club Theatre Company Granville Island Stage until December 30, 2018.

 

Picks of the Week – October 31, 2018

It’s Halloween night! As the veil between realms is lifted, get out and have a hauntingly good time. Then get ready to fill the longer nights of November with more entertaining picks of the week.

Fright: It’s the final night to experience the thrills and chills of the haunted houses, rides and ghouls of Fright Nights at Playland

Improv: Grab your ghoulfriends and enjoy a month of eerie laughter as Vancouver Theatresports presents Spooktober; a selection of themed shows wraps up tonight.

Glow: Van Dusen Garden invites the whole family to Glow In The Garden. Like Hansel and Gretel follow the breadcrumbs to find Halloween fun for all ages all around the garden.

Train: Tonight is the last night to right the Stanley Park Ghost Train on a voyage of the dead to explore a Celtic Halloween.

Pie: It’s your last chance to visit Mrs Lovett’s Pie Shop at 348 Water Street as The Snapshot Collective presents the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Harvest: Until November 5th, Harvest Glow at Milner Gardens in Langley isthe ultimate family harvest festival; pumpkin patch, corn maze, pumpkin carving, Harvest Market with 20+ merchants.

Owen Scott as Ralphie
pic: Emily Cooper

Ralphie: Align Entertainment brings the holiday classic A Christmas Story: The Musical to the Michael J. Fox Theatre stage in Burnaby, from November 2 – 17, 2018.  

Fest: Music on Main invites you to immerse yourself in the diverse music of the 2018 Modulus Festival from November 2 – 6, 2018.

Gum: Until December, visit Mouthfeel at Western Front, a spectacular, peculiar exhibition commissioned by the City of Vancouver about gum, co-created by students

The Cultch – Backbone
Photo: Carnival Cinema

Acrobat: The Cultch presents Backbone, a mesmerizing take on the circus,  that leaps from the Vancouver Playhouse stage with breathtaking excitement, until November 4th.

Puck: The Vancouver Canucks play host to Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night and then host Colorado on Friday night at Rogers Arena

Play: The Arts Club Theatre Company continues to Sweat at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, until November 18th.

Couture: The Vancouver Art Gallery presents Guo Pei: Couture Beyond is the first Canadian exhibition devoted to the work of Guo Pei, China’s preeminent couturière until January 20, 2019

Bros: Part of The Ceasefire Series, The Believers are But Brothers is now playing at The Cultch Vancity Culture Lab until November 10th.

Roar: Saturday, head to BC Place for the final BC Lions home game of the regular season against Calgary Stampeders

Lumiere – Luna

Lights: November 2-4 are brighter as Lumiere Vancouver lights up the nights with illuminated light displays and events at Jim Deva Plaza, English Bay and šx????n?q Xwtl’e7énk Square (Art Gallery North).

Stage: The Cultch & Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre present The Ones We Leave Behind a mysterious, comedy about the redemptive power of human connection, playing until November 3 at The Cultch Historic Theatre

‘While Others Are Sleeping’ acrylic on canvas by David Wilson

Art: Visit Kimoto Gallery November 2 – 24, for a new series of paintings, Water, by Vancouver artists David Wilson looking at the natural watery surroundings and rain-soaked city streets of his hometown.  

Films: The 22nd Annual Vancouver Asian Film Festival brings both English and subtitles Asian language features and shorts from independent Asian filmmakers around North America and around the world.

Jazz: East End Blues and All That Jazz at Firefall Arts Centre, is an evening of gospel and blues, jazz and memories, with remarkable historical photos that pays tribute to the life and contributions of the historic East End Black residential community featuring a tribute to local legend Thelma Gibson and family, until November 3rd.

The Arts Club makes you Sweat

The Tony-nominated play, Sweat, is now on stage at the Arts Club Theatre Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.  A co-production with Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre, this production is the Canadian Premiere of playwright Lynn Nottage’s second Pulitzer prize winner.  A gritty, raw drama that gives the audience a glimpse into the lives of a small group of residents of Reading, Pennsylvania, one of the poorest cities in the USA.

In spite of being written earlier, Sweat, shows how the era of deindustrialization during the George W Bush presidency, set up the election of Donald Trump. It’s easy to connect the characters in Sweat with the current Trump base.  As a result, the play could have very different reception depending on the demographics of the audience, city and country.

Sweat starts off in 2008 with a visit to a probation officer by two recently released convicts; Jason and Chris. In flashback we see the start of the story, in 2000 a group of friends and co-workers hang out at a local tavern.  We witness the disintegration of friendships and family as two co-workers, Tracey and Cynthia, compete for the same managerial promotion at ‘the factory’. When Cynthia gets the job, jealousy pushes Tracey to spread rumours that she only got the promotion because she is black. This begins the splinter in their friendship, which is further strained when Cynthia is forced to lock-out her friends and family when the union votes against the factories offer of concessions.  As the strike wears on the picket-line brings stress to all involved. Racism and anger grows as ‘scabs’ are hired to do their work for cheaper.  This leads Jason and Chris to impulsively make disastrous decisions in the heat of the moment, leading us back to the beginning and the probation office.

The whole company of Sweat admirably bring the realism of the characters to life, Nicole St. Martin as Tracey and Marci T. House as Cynthia especially stand out as the driving forces in the conflict.  While is it well written, the play feels a bit long at 2.5 hours (including intermission). It felt like Ms Nottage tries to packs in so much social commentary about, socio-economics, race relations, political history, with news/sports clips and music also helping to set the era, that the story feels bloated.  In spite of so much dialogue in the play, the ending felt abrupt with little resolution, at this moment letting the audience draw their own conclusion as to the fate of this collective. Also taking away from the climax, some unfortunate technical issues with lighting and audio in the final scenes distracted from the performances on stage.  However, if you like gritty, political, blue-collar dramas, Sweat is definitely in your wheelhouse and worth viewing.

Sweat plays at The Arts Club Theatre Company Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until November 18, 2018. Tickets are available from The Arts Club box office or online at artsclub.com 

Picks of the Week – October 3, 2018

How can it be Thanksgiving weekend already? Wasn’t it just summer? Let see what kinds of entertainment this week has harvested!

Domino: British belter Jesse J brings her powerful voice and pop tunes to the Vogue Theatre tonight.

Pucks: The Vancouver Canucks 49th Season opens tonight as they host Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena

Beer: Raise your mug, grab your schnitzel and hit the dancefloor at #DasOriginal Oktoberfest at Vancouver Alpen Club starting this weekend

Movies: The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is now on, lighting up screens around the city until October 12, 2018.

Dog: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time opens the Arts Club Theatre Company’s season at Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until October 7th.

Twisted: At The Arts Club Granville Island Stage, find out what happens when an imaginary friend overstays his welcome, in Mustard, playing until October 20th

Test: Now open at The Cultch York Theatre, Testosterone is the true story of trans man Kit Redstone’s first entrance into a male gym changing room.

Comedy: Get double days of Jerry Seinfeld as he performs three shows at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Thursday and Friday

Improv: Grab your ghoulfriends and enjoy a month of eerie laughter as Vancouver Theatresports presents Spooktober; a selection of themed shows throughout the month

Poet: Indigenous Hawaiian Kealoha, Hawaii’s first official poet laureate performs at han Centre for the Performing Arts at UBC October 3, 2018, as part of the Beyond Words series at the Telus Studio Theatre

 

photo: Sepehr Samimi

Brothers: A tale of biblical proportions, The Firehall Arts Centre presents The Biting School’s Cain and Abel from October 3rd to October 6th.

Powwow: Kamloopa , playing at The Cultch Historic Theatre until October 6th is a high energy Indigenous matriarchal story following two urban Indigenous sisters and a lawless trickster, on a roadtrip to the West Coast’s largest Powwow.

Les Belles Soeurs:
Melissa Oei, France Perras and Agnes Tong.
photo: David Cooper

Women: Gateway Theatre opens its 2018-2019 season with the 50th anniversary of a Canadian classic, Les Belles-soeurs, a story of 15 women in a raucous, funny and heartfelt romp

Rock: Making their annual visit to the Commodore Ballroom, local legends 54-40 play Friday night.

Diwali: A Vancouver Guldasta peaks inside the home of the Dhaliwals —a Punjabi family in Vancouver as they deal with events at home and abroad in Punjab, in the early 1980s. Presented with Diwali in BC at The Cultch Culture Lab until October 21

Krapps Last Tape starring Linden Banks

Beckett: Seven Tyrants Theatre, opens its first season of work in their new performance venue with Samuel Beckett’s absurdist one-man masterpiece: Krapp’s Last Tape, opening October 5th at Tyrant Studio

 

Picks of the Week – September 26, 2018

The last week of September is starting off Autumn with a bright and warm start, just right as the Fall entertainment picks heat up

Tasting Plates Vegetarian Edition

Veg: Tonight, join Vancouver Foodster’s Tasting Place Vegetarian Edition and explore some of the plant-based bites from around downtown.

Dog: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time opens the Arts Club Theatre Company’s season at Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until October 7th.

Twisted: At The Arts Club Granville Island Stage, find out what happens when an imaginary friend overstays his welcome, in Mustard, playing until October 20th

Pop: Scottish synth-pop group Chvrches play a double header with back to back shows at the Commodore Ballroom on Thursday and Friday nights.

Never Still:
Shion Skye Carter
photo: Ben Didier

Dance: The Firehall Arts Centre’s 2018-2019 season opens with a unique new work, Never Still, running September 26 – 29.

Bard: Summer is over but the 2018 season of Bard on the Beach  amazing Beatles themed version of As You Like It, is so good it continues into Fall, closing on Friday

Missionary: Broadway Across Canada invites you to catch the multi-award winning Book of Mormon playing at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre until Sunday.

Les Belles Soeurs:
Melissa Oei, France Perras and Agnes Tong.
photo: David Cooper

Women: Gateway Theatre opens its 2018-2019 season with the 50th anniversary of a Canadian classic, Les Belles-soeurs, a story of 15 women in a raucous, funny and heartfelt romp

BBall: Rogers Arena welcomes the Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers in a NBA preseason game on Saturday night

Powwow: Kamloopa , playing at The Cultch Historic Theatre until October 6th is a high energy Indigenous matriarchal story following two urban Indigenous sisters and a lawless trickster, on a roadtrip to the West Coast’s largest Powwow.

Fever: The Vancouver Arts Gallery wraps up its summer exhibitions Cabin Fever; a cultural, historic and artistic look at the cabin of North America, it’s your last chance to come inside the rustic world before it closes on Sunday

I’m With Her photo: Shervin Lainez

Chan: The folk supergroup, I’m With Her, brings their first Canadian performance to the Chan Centre for Performing Arts at UBC on Sunday night.

Uncover “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”

The Arts Club Theatre Company’s 55th Season opens with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  Now playing at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, the award winning play is a delightful adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel of the same name.  Written by Simon Stephens, this adaptation is directed by The Arts Club’s Ashlie Corcoran, putting her stamp on her first season as Artistic Director.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time starts off with the curious incident, that the neighbour’s dog has been killed, with a garden fork. The dog’s body has been discovered by 15 year old Christopher John Francis Boone, who is assumed to be, though it’s not directly stated, on the Autism spectrum.  Against his father’s wishes, Christopher decides to investigate whodunit.  Along the way, Christopher learns truths about the dog’s death, his family and himself as he challenges and overcomes his abilities.

The story, worthy of a night-time soap, is told via Christopher’s “book” a personal diary.  As read by Siobhan, his special needs assistant and mentor, flashbacks flesh out his diary entries, and becomes a play-within-a-play.  Rhythm and repetition help the young math wiz navigate his complex world.  Under the guidance of Movement Director Kayla Dunbar, the characters’ interactions also take on dance-like rhythms and repetition.  Whether they’re using their bodies to form abstract structures or create the frenetic pace of the big city the movement fills in the picture that Christopher’s words create.

The talented cast is led by Netflix’s Alex Strangelove star, Daniel Doheny in a brilliant and believable turn as Christopher.  The rest of the cast play multiple characters that help, hinder and challenge Christopher’s adventure. Todd Thomson stands out as Mr Boone who is both a comforting parent and antagonist.  As well, Ghazal Azarbad, as the caring Siobhan, provides the encouragement and cheerleading the story.  While the story has plenty of ups and downs and family drama, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is an uplifting and life affirming show, that everyone will love.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is playing until October 7, 2018 at The Arts Club Theatre Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.
September 30th, 7pm, is a relax performance for audience members who may find it difficult to follow a conventional performance.