Les Belles-soeurs at Gateway Theatre until October 6th

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

Now onstage at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre, Les Belles-soeurs (The Sisters-in-law) presents 15 women in the English language version of the gritty romp. The Ruby Slippers Theatre Production, directed by Diane Brown, was Quebec playwright Michel Tremblay’s first professionally produced play.  Les Belles-soeurs was risque and vulgar when it premiered 50 years ago, and is just as bold and topical today.

The play finds a gathering of women coming together to in the kitchen of Madame Germaine Lauzon (played with gusto by France Perras), who has won one million Gold Star loyalty stamps, to help paste the stamps into books.  M. Lauzon’s sisters, sisters-in-law, daughter, neighbours and friends arrive in varying states of excitement for the prize-winner.  Over the course of the evening, the ladies bond over bingo, men, and their mundane lives.  Boasting about her win stirs jealousy amongst the ladies, who covet Germaine’s precious win.  Gradually petty gossip,  scandal, oversharing, and clashing egos result in a tumultuous, and often hysterical, party.

When Tremblay wrote the play, during Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, telling a story about the working class, let alone 15 working class women, doing working class things was groundbreaking. Add in the fact that no topic of conversation and no language seemed to be taboo, Les Belles-soeurs set off controversy and tested the Quebec Theatre establishment.  Gender roles, control of the Church, ageism, teen-pregnancy, family-squabbles all continue to resonate today, especially topical in the #metoo era.

In this Gateway production, each of the 15 women turn in captivating performances that together becomes one of the best ensembles we’ve seen onstage in a while. While all of them are great, France Perras, Beatrice Zeilinger, Tallulah Winkelman, and Emilie Leclerc, as the sisters, stand out with the bulk of the drama. As well, Lucia Frangione as the jealous neighbour who leads the revolt against Germaine, provides plenty of fireworks and comedy.

Enjoy the drama and comedy of Ruby Slippers Theatre’s Les Belles-Soeurs at Gateway Theatre until October 6. Tickets are available online or at the Gateway Box Office now.

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.


Make the Drive to Marion Bridge

L to R: Beatrice Zeilinger, Lynda Boyd and Nicola Cavendish
photo: David Cooper

Kay Meek Arts Centre in West Vancouver is staging Daniel MacIvor’s Marion Bridge, in celebration of its 20th Anniversary.

The premise of Marion Bridge is fairly simple; a trio of sisters gather at the family home in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to care for their dying mother, and sort through a lifetime of family differences and drama. What keeps the play from falling into a movie-of-the-week cliche, are the three fully realized performances by three respected actresses.  The venerable Nicola Cavendish, in her final stage performance, is Theresa – a farming nun, who is keeping up her holy facade despite facing a crisis of faith. Gemini award winning actress Lynda Boyd,  plays Agnes – a long-struggling Toronto based actress who “enjoys a drink” and Beatrice Zeilinger as Louise, the complex but ‘strange’ sister.

Almost everyone should be able to relate to the complexities of the family dynamic, especially with three such different siblings trying to sort out decades of history. In Marion Bridge, the sisters’ mother (dying, off-stage) is the catalyst for them to examine their lives, the mistakes of the past, and look for ways to grow into their futures. While there is a simple evocative set, designed by Tiko Kerr, it’s almost unnecessary,  these three leading ladies could perform on a blank stage with three chairs and the audience would still be entranced by their turns under Roy Surrette’s direction.

photo: David Cooper

Each of the characters has a monologue to flesh out their character, while the actresses were a joy to watch, I did feel they broke up the momentum of the play slightly. The transitions between scenes felt a bit abrupt, almost like the play was written with TV commercials in mind.  Cape Breton inspired music played and lights dimmed, leading to some awkward claps from the audience as they didn’t know if they were at the end of an act or the play itself.  Otherwise, Marion Bridge is an engaging, well-acted play that won’t disappoint.

Just as the characters take a drive to Marion Bridge in the play, this production is well worth the drive to West Vancouver and the Kay Meek Arts Centre.  If that’s not reason enough, the opportunity to witness stage-legend Nicola Cavendish’s final theatre performance before retiring, is an added bonus. 

Marion Bridge plays at the Kay Meek Arts Centre, 1700 Mathers Ave, West Vancouver, until September 20th. Find tickets and details at kaymeek.com

Marion Bridge coming to Kay Meek Arts Centre

This week, West Vancouver’s Kay Meek Arts Centre celebrates the 20th anniversary of Daniel MacIvor’s renowned play Marion Bridge

photo: David Cooper

When three estranged sisters (Agnes, Theresa and Louise) make the trip home to Cape Breton to care for their dying mother, their shared past resurfaces in all of its tangled intricacy. Eldest sister Agnes, battling addiction and failed ambition, is forced to revisit her most agonizing decision. Middle sister Theresa, a longtime caregiver to their mother is questioning her Catholic faith, while Louise, the youngest of the trio, is struggling towards independence. In the kitchen of the family home, the women circle their respective pain and grief, confront the ghosts of the past, and struggle towards some hope for the future.  

L to R: Beatrice Zeilinger, Lynda Boyd and Nicola Cavendish
photo: David Cooper

Presented with Wing & Prayer Productions and under the direction of Roy Surette, Marion Bridge features the legendary Nicola Cavendish as Theresa, Lynda Boyd as Agnes and Beatrice Zeilinger as Louise, this new production brings MacIvor’s searing dialogue to life with delicacy and bone-deep honesty. Nominated for the Governor General’s Award and adapted for the screen, Marion Bridge is filled with hard-won humanism, flinty humour and a resounding belief in the power of connection. 

In addition to celebrating the play’s 20th Anniversary, this production of Marion Bridge will also  mark the final stage production by the great Nicola Cavendish.  Born in Cirencester, England, and raised in rural British Columbia, Ms Cavendish has amassed an impressive list of credits in her illustrious career. From Stratford Festival, Broadway and national tours with her best known role in Shirley Valentine to her Holiday favourite play It’s Snowing on Saltspring at the Arts Club Theatre, her performances have touched stages near and far.

Catch this special performance of Marion Bridge at the Kay Meek Arts Centre from September 5 – 20, 2018. Tickets are available from the Kay Meek Arts Centre box office or online at kaymeek.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

Untold Wants Theatre Co. Makes Its Vancouver Debut

Paige Louter (l) & Éanna O’Dowd (r)
Photo: Jalen Laine.

Irish eyes bring The Human Ear to Vancouver. The new, young Irish theatre company Untold Wants Theatre Co., makes its Vancouver debut with the North American premiere of the acclaimed drama, The Human Ear. Opening July 18, at Pacific Theatre, award-winning British playwright Alexandra Wood’s eerie play, breaks down language and certainties, playing with chronology and flashback.

The Human Ear stars Paige Louter as Lucy, whose father was a soldier killed in the Gulf war and, following an act of protest and retribution of his death, her brother Jason ran away from home. Now she’s just lost her mother in an attack on a city bus. Following a ten-year absence, her brother has now returned. But is he who he says he is? Lucy’s boyfriend Ed, a police liaison officer, doesn’t think so.

Éanna O’Dowd
Photo: Jalen Laine

“With The Human Ear, the theme of difficulty with facing identity when we are experiencing grief or shock is a feeling to which we can all relate,” says Éanna O’Dowd, who plays both Lucy’s brother and Ed, her boyfriend.

“The difficult work is in accepting truths we may not want to. But Alexandra Wood turns that concept on its head. Her writing makes us see that it’s okay not to be in control when facing our struggles, but to see what’s right in front of us in any given moment. For Lucy, the possibility to accept help is around her. But who can she trust when she is split herself?”

Pacific Theatre’s intimate design allows Untold Wants Theatre Co. to reflect the staging of the play’s 2015 Edinburgh Fringe debut. “Theatre is where people can go to experience universal truths, and come out the other side with perhaps a different view of their environments,” says Jessica Aquila Cymerman, director and co-producer (along with O’Dowd). “Traversing culture is important to us, so bringing a company to Canada, that started in Ireland with theatre-makers who were trained in Scotland, offers a unique perspective to the Vancouver scene.”

Director Jessica Aquila Cymerman
Photo: Jalen Laine

Originally from Los Angeles and Galway, Ireland, respectively, Untold Wants Theatre founders Jessica Aquila Cymerman and Éanna O’Dowd met while studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. They established Untold Wants Theatre to bring new, contemporary voices to a wide range of audiences. The Human Ear is their second production, and first in Vancouver, following a successful run of the Irish premiere of Reasons to be Pretty by Neil LaBute in Dublin.

Untold Wants Theatre Co.’s The Human Ear runs July 18 to 25, 2018 at Pacific Theatre, 1440 W. 12th Avenue. Find showtimes and tickets online now

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