Backbone Makes You Sit Up & Take Notice

Backbone, now playing at the Vancouver Playhouse, is edge of your seat entertainment!

The Cultch – Backbone
Photo: Carnival Cinema

Presented by The Cultch, Australian circus troupe Gravity and Other Myths (GOM) will literally throw your perceptions of circus out the window.  Like other contemporary circus/physical theatre troupes, GOM tests the boundaries of the human body.  Backbone strips down any flashy sets and theatrics, to put the 10 acrobats and their mesmerizing abilities front and centre.  The company themselves also strip down to start the performance, swapping and changing clothing as they warm up with some tumbling and leaping. The show feels as though organically flows from beginning to end. Although it appears improvisational the movement is like a finely choreographed dance as the acrobats move from skill to skill.  The warm up leads to balance tricks, many in motion as they walk across the stage while stand (up to four performers) tall on others’ heads or shoulders. An extended set of swinging, and tossing of performers high across the stage keeps the audience’s’ eyes busy following all the action.  Backbone is full of brilliant action, I was afraid to miss a single twist, toss or tumble.

The Cultch – Backbone
pic: Darcy Grant

The company fills the Playhouse Theatre with so much energy and fun, the gap between performer and audience shrinks as everyone shifts to the edges of their seats.  The 10 members and 2 musicians, are on stage throughout the 80 minute show, tagging each other in and out of tricks to quickly change, or take a breathe.  The trust and connectivity demonstrated by the company creates sexy, but not sexual, intimacy as the ten performers become one creative movement.  In spite of the rough and raw sets and costumes of Backbone, the fluidity of their skills form a beautiful work.

Backbone will enchant everyone in the family, get your tickets soon.

Gravity and Other Myths’ Backbone, presented by The Cultch, is playing until November  4, 2018 at The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, 600 Hamilton St.
for Showtimes and Tickets visit thecultch.com

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 

Ensemble Theatre Festival has more than A Few Good Men

Ensemble Theatre Company 6th Annual Repertory Festival is now underway with A Few Good Men running in the repertoire at Jericho Arts Centre.

The military courtroom drama is best known for the star-studded film of the same name but this intimate stage version really allows Aaron Sorkin’s script to be the star.  Jericho Arts Centre layout brings the audience in so close to the players we felt like members of the jury. The intimacy draws the audience into the drama but also magnifies even the slightest of mistakes, some (presumably) opening-night nerves got the best of some actors. However, in such a dialogue heavy script some miscues and stumbles in delivery make it feel more natural.

The story follows the defendants, lawyers and witnesses in a high-profile court-martial, that the U.S. Marine Corp wants to quietly disappear, but internal affairs believes it’s more than an open and shut case.  The team soon uncover a high-level conspiracy that slowly unravels before them.  At first, the film comes to mind, but soon the cast steps out from the shadow of Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Jack Nicholson to make the roles their own. Directors Alan Brodie and Tariq Leslie recast some of the characters with players of the opposite sex as in the film, making it even easier to look at them with fresh eyes.

Alexis Kellum-Creer (as Lieutenant Commander Joanne Galloway) & Zac Scott (as Lieutenant Daniel Kaffe)
photo: Derek Fu

As lead prosecutor Lt Daniel Kaffe, Zac Scott brings his own brand of cockiness to the first act, then really embodies the role as he emotionally connects to his clients and the audience.  Alexis Kellum-Creer brings a mix of bravado and innocence to the character of Lt Commander Joanne Galloway, boldly asserting herself into the defense team but humbled by missteps in her ability make her realize her junior officer, Kaffe, is not all style and show.  With the help of Sean Anthony’s Lt Sam Weinberg, the trio form a realistic camaraderie as they race to defend the pair of Marines accused of murder.  As the play evolves the guilt shifts from the accused to others involved in the major cover up of a murder.   Yurij Kis, as Col. Nathan Jessep, has one of the most difficult challenges to break free from the memory of Jack Nicolson’s Oscar nominated turn as the play’s villain.  However, in spite of it being one of the most famous scenes in film, Kis really connects as he takes the witness stand and delivers a scorching monologue to implicate himself in the show’s climax.

As a fan of Aaron Sorkin, the cast and direction of Ensemble Theatre’s A Few Good Men keep the pace and deliver the drama expected of the well written script.

A Few Good Men runs alongside Ian Rankin’s Dark Road and The Beauty Queen of Leenane at Jericho Arts Centre in Ensemble Theatre Company’s Annual Repertory Festival until August 17th.

Visit ensembletheatrecompany.ca for festival passes and single tickets

Ensemble Theatre Company 2018 Summer Festival

The Ensemble Theatre Company has announced the trio of dramas in the 6th Annual Summer Repertory Festival.  Taking the stage at the Jericho Arts Centre, Ensemble has programmed a dramatic trio of thrilling, entertaining, and challenging plays. 

Aaron Sorkin’s military courtroom drama A Few Good Men, Martin McDonagh’s tragic-comedy The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Dark Road, the first play from Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin, are brought to life by the Ensemble Theatre’s talented group of actors, directors, and designers.

This selection of three highly entertaining plays from three celebrated writers showcases the humour, intricacies, and depths of the darker recesses of our lives. As Tariq Leslie, Artistic Director of the Ensemble Theatre Company explains: “To me, theatre is a means of generating empathy. It gives us a window to understanding each other a little more – our different and diverse hopes, aspirations, dreams, and fears. Join us for our 6th Annual Festival, and for the journeys that A Few Good MenThe Beauty Queen of Leenane, and Dark Road will take you on.”

6th Annual Summer Repertory Festival features:

Dark Road, by Ian Rankin and Mark Thomson
Directed by Chris Lam 

Featuring Alysson Hall, Paul Herbert, Lindsay Nelson, Christine Reinfort, Anthony Santiago, David Wallace, and Rebecca Walters 

Preview Performance July 9
Opening Night 7:30pm July 12
Special Sunday Brunch Reading 11:30am July 22
Matinée 2:00pm July 22
Closing Night 7:30pm August 16

A Few Good Men, by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Alan Brodie and Tariq Leslie

Featuring Zac Scott, Alexis Kellum-Creer, Yurij Kis, Sean Anthony, James Gill, Alysson Hall, Marc LeBlanc, David Wallace, Francis Winter

Preview Performance July 10
Opening Night 7:30 July 13
Special Sunday Brunch Reading 11:30am July 29
Matinée 2pm July 29
Closing Night 7:30 August 17

The Beauty Queen of Leenane, by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Kathleen Duborg

Featuring Tanja Dixon-Warren, Ashley O’Connell, Kristen Slenning, Francis Winter 

Preview Performance July 8
Opening Night 7:30pm July 14
Special Sunday Brunch Reading 11:30am August 5,
Matinée 2pm August 5
Closing Night 7:30pm August 15

Ensemble Theatre Company’s 6th Annual Summer Repertory Festival, runs July 8 to August 17, at Jericho Art Centre. Single show tickets and Festival Passes are on sale now at ensembletheatrecompany.ca

Say I Do to Mamma Mia at Arts Club

MammaMiaFrom the opening notes of the overture to the final sing-along curtain call, Mamma Mia now play at The Arts Club Theatre Company Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, will have you dancing in your seat.

The feel-good jukebox musical inspired by the hit music of Abba is composed by Abba’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and written by Catherine Johnson with this production directed and choreographed by Valerie Easton.  Set Designer David Roberts’ beautiful set transports the audience to the beaches and tavernas on the fictional Greek Island of Kalokairi.

Mamma Mia opens as Sophie Sheridan (Michelle Bardach) prepares for her wedding to fiancé Sky.  Raised by single mother, innkeeper, Donna, Sophie seeks to know who her father is and discovering her mom’s diary she discovers three possible fathers.  Inviting all three, Sam, Bill and Harry, to her wedding unbeknownst to Donna, with none of them, other than Sophie, really sure why they are all on the island, all sorts of miscommunication comedy ensues.  Donna is supported by her two long time girlfriends and former girl-group bandmates, Rosie and Tanya.

Throughout the 2 hour musical the story of love, female empowerment, and friendship is perfectly woven into the familiar Abba songs.  Amongst the solid storytelling, some numbers are just for the sheer fun of it, enter Donna and the Dynamos who’s camp costumes takes the audience back to the heyday of the Swedish quartet.  The Dynamos, Rosie and Tanya, are played with just the right blend of slapstick and camp by Cathy Wilmot and Irene Karas Loeper (respectively), while Stephanie Roth brings a perfect balance of power and emotion to Donna’s vocals.  With Ms Bardach vocally matching Roth’s, the two leading ladies anchor Mamma Mia with the grace and strength.  Among the male leads Michael Torontow as Sam, stands out with a strong voice and leading man charisma.  Local theatre veterans, Warren Kimmel as Aussie Bill and Jay Hindle as Harry, while not carrying as much of a musical load, bring a nice blend of comedy and fatherly friendship to their roles, in spite of Hindle’s distractingly wavering British accent.

While there appeared to be a couple prop and wardrobe slips on opening night, not surprising in such a physically challenging song and dance production, the veteran cast improvised their recovery with seamless ease.  The overall spirit of Mamma Mia and the joyous Abba music is sure to win over even the hardest demeanour with smiles and laughs throughout the show, especially during the rousing encore as the company (and many audience members) reprise Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Waterloo.

Mamma Mia plays at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre until August 12th, with special sing-along performances on July 28th. Visit artsclub.com for showtimes and tickets.

The Art Club Ashlie Corcoran announces 2018-19 season

This week, The Arts Club Theatre Company announced the shows coming for the 2018-2019 season.  As we reach the midpoint of the current season, the final season for long-time Artistic Director Bill Millerd’s before he retires, the incoming Artistic Director Ashlie Corcoran is making her mark on the future of the Arts Club.

“For this new season, I seek to build on the legacy of Bill Millerd, continuing his remarkable work through eclectic programming that celebrates local talent, offers opportunities for emerging artists, and strengthens diversity. With these goals in mind, I’ve curated eleven plays by Canadians, eleven by women, seven by BC artists, and four by artists of colour or Indigenous artists.” says Ms Corcoran.  The season also includes remounts of some Arts Club favourites, a number of partnerships with other Canadian theatre companies including the announcement of Hardline Theatre as the 2018-19 resident company.

The full Arts Club Theatre Company 2018-2019 Season includes:

STANLEY INDUSTRIAL ALLIANCE STAGE

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time: by Simon Stephens, adapted from the novel by Mark Haddon
Multiple Olivier and Tony Award winning mystery
September 6–October 7, 2018 

Sweat, by Lynn Nottage
A working-class drama and 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner
October 18–November 18, 2018
Canadian premiere; in partnership with Citadel Theatre 

Disney’s Beauty & The Beast, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book by Linda Woolverton
A remount of last year’s hit presentation of Disney’s beloved fairy-tale musical
December 1, 2018–January 6, 2019 

The Matchmaker, by Thornton Wilder
A classic farce that provided the source material for the musical Hello Dolly!
January 24–February 24, 2019

The Orchard (After Chekhov), by Sarena Parmar
Set in the Okanagan Valley, a Canadian take on Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard
March 21–April 21, 2019 

Matilda The Musical, book by Dennis Kelly, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, from the novel by Roald Dahl
Multiple award-winning hit musical based on the Roald Dahl story
May 16–July 14, 2019
In partnership with Citadel Theatre and Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

GRANVILLE ISLAND STAGE

Mustard, by Kat Sandler
An unconventional comedy about growing up
September 20–October 20, 2018
In partnership with Belfry Theatre

Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley, by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon
The festive season Pride and Prejudice follow-up
November 15–December 30, 2018 

The Shoplifters, by Morris Panych
A hilariously biting story about society’s haves and have-nots
February 7–March 9, 2019 

Bed and Breakfast, by Mark Crawford
A charming comedy about the ‘inns’ and being out in a small town
April 4–May 4, 2019

Mom’s The Word: Nest ½ Empty, by the Mom’s the Word Collective
What happens when the kids fly the coop?
June 6–July 20, 2019
Third show in the Mom’s the Word series; remount of 2017 Arts Club premiere

GOLDCORP STAGE AT THE BMO THEATRE CENTRE

Blind Date, a spontaneous theatre creation by Rebecca Northan
One actor + One audience member = A Blind Date Like No Other
November 22–December 30, 2018 

True Crime, by Torquil Campbell (of the band, Stars) and Chris Abraham
A genre-mixing examination of a conman
January 31–February 24, 2019 

Redpatch, by Raes Calvert and Sean Harris Oliver
A historical drama about a young Métis soldier & his company
March 7–31, 2019
In partnership with Citadel Theatre and Hardline Productions, our 2018–2019 Resident Company 

The Great Leap, by Lauren Yee
American basketball historically goes to China
April 25–May 19, 2019
A Canadian premiere

Strathcona Beer Company celebrates first anniversary.

This weekend, Strathcona Beer Company is celebrating their one-year anniversary, by launching a special edition birthday beer. Called Primo, a Double IPA, launches with a weekend long open house with brewery tours. In addition, they will release new branded clothing and feature an art installation in the tasting room from infamous New York graffiti legend, KR. 

Strathcona Beer Company is located on the corner of East Hastings and Campbell Street in the heart of Strathcona, Vancouver’s oldest residential neighbourhood.  The world class beer company and tasting room has quickly become a neighbourhood favourite for both locals and visitors from outside the area. In their first year, they have experienced substantial growth with their lineup of classic, local and international beer styles, winning several awards, while constantly striving to push the boundaries of craft beer and design.

Strathcona Beer Company’s collective interests in art, music, skateboarding and design have influenced all aspects of the brand’s contribution to the craft beer scene.They are a community based brewery that is focused on supporting local, from charitable and non-profit groups to incorporating local ingredients into their product.

“We are proud to be located in the Strathcona neighbourhood working in collaboration with local artists like Andrew Dadson and Matt Aiken along with international creators such a Rob Cristofaro from Alife and Craig Costello from Krink.” says Strathcona Beer Company President, Tim Knight.  This has been a year of learning, improving and being humbled by the incredible growth we have experienced to date. We look forward to our second year in business and what we will be able to accomplish together as a team and community.”

Strathcona Beer Company’s Primo Double IPA is a limited release and will be available exclusively for tasting and purchase in the brewery’s tasting room (895 East Hastings St.) starting today Friday, November 17th, a perfect present for the beer lover on your Christmas list.  An official anniversary party for customers also takes place tonight from 6pm to 11pm with music by special guest DJ Flipout.