Bombay Black returns to the Vancouver stage

In a change from the festive fair on most stages around town, next week The Firehall Arts Centre presents Bombay Black.  

Running December 5 to December 15, 2018, the play by the award-winning novelist and playwright Anosh Irani was heaped with praise during its 2017 production at Vancouver Fringe Festival.

Bombay Black : Arshdeep Purba
Photo: Raymond Kam

Bombay Black is set in the bitter reality of present-day India. The iron-willed Padma (Jessie Award nominee Nimet Kanji) takes money from men who watch her daughter, Apsara (rising star Arshdeep Purba), perform an exotic dance. When a mysterious blind man named Kamal (Jessie Award nominee Munish Sharma) arrives for an appointment, his secret threatens to change each of their lives forever.

Bombay Black (l-r) Munish Sharma & Arshdeep Purba
Photo: Raymond Kam

Directed by Mumbai-born, multiple award-winning Indo-Canadian producer Rohit Chokhani, Bombay Black features a poetic text, bold theatrical imagery and a gritty twist. In a first, Vancouver Arts stalwart Chokhani has reimagined Irani’s work to present the play from the perspective of a blind man. An earlier version of this production, which was Chokhani’s directorial debut at the 2017 Vancouver Fringe Festival, enjoyed a sold-out run and received the Pick of the Fringe Award.

Donna Spencer had this to say about the production, “As Artistic Producer of the Firehall, I have always been excited about supporting the work of artists from diverse cultural backgrounds and providing opportunities for emerging directors to have their work seen. Rohit Chokhani’s production of Bombay Black provides just that opportunity to showcase his work as a director and to introduce the creative team and actors in the work to our audiences.”

Anosh Irani’s Bombay Black runs at The Firehall Arts Centre, 280 East Cordova Street, Wednesday, December 5 to Saturday, December 15th, 2018.

For showtimes and tickets visit firehallartscentre.ca

Albireo, A New Musical, Shines

Like it’s namesake star, Albireo, a new work by Annahis Basmadjian, shines with potential. Albireo was brought to the Red Gate Revue Stage by producers Rushed Productions Ltd with support from UBC Players Club.  Liam Lazenby directs a cast of experienced and new to the scene actors and singers to bring Annahis Basmadjian’s light musical-comedy to life.

Telling the story of two estranged brother’s Charon Chambers (Colton Fyfe) and Wriker Writeov (Jed Weiss), who we learn are half-siren/half-human. Orphaned by their siren mother and deaf-father (therefore could not succumb to the siren song), the brothers fended for themselves using their power for a life of crime.  When Chambers took another young human orphan, Holly, under his wing to settle down and raise her, he left behind his brother and their grifter ways.  When Writeov finds Chambers and Holly about to host a party, some comedic and dramatic events occur that push the brothers to work together to save their family.  Realizing that the bonds of family make their power stronger they are able to fend off a rival.

Being sirens, music is a vital part of Chambers and Writeov’s lives and therefore the play.  Basmadjian has crafted some catchy, pop tunes for Alberio and witty dialogue to go along with them.

The actors’ varying skill levels come into play during the performance, creating a uneven rhythm to the musical as the players move between flat out comedy and dramatic portrayals of their characters.  Seasoned musical-theatre performer Colton Fyfe brings a fully developed character and a more dramatic turn to his Chamber.  Whereas, recent graduate Jed Weiss, in his theatre debut, brings an erratic Jim Carey-style to his comedic portrayal of Writeov.  Having more stage experience performing with his band, his singing and guitar playing skills excel.   Some of the ensemble also stand out, for the wrong reasons, lampooning or murmuring too loudly drawing attention to the background.  On a small space, like the Revue stage, it doesn’t take much to distract and requires creativity from the director, managers and cast to avoid excess noise and balanced performance volumes.

While this Rushed Production Ltd production has ended, if we are lucky enough, we will get to see Alberio again with different companies and stages as the musical continues to develop over the year, it definitely has the DNA for success.

Pi Theatre opens the Canadian Premiere of Hir

Pi Theatre’s Hir. l to r: Jordan Fowlie, Andrew Wheeler, Victor Dolhai, Deb Williams. Photo: Emily Cooper

Just as the American Thanksgiving brought families together, laying bare all the dysfunction, family drama, laughter and love that accompanies holiday get togethers, Pi Theatre opens, Hir, a darkly comic exploration of family.  The Canadian premiere of acclaimed American playwright Taylor Mac, Hir runs until December 8, 2018, at Vancouver Civic Theatre’s Annex. The production explores the dynamics of a suburban family dealing with PTSD, identity crises, and gender politics in a realistically comedic fashion.

“Hir is an outrageously provocative play in the rich tradition of black comedies centered on the dysfunctional American family,” says Pi Theatre Artistic Director Richard Wolfe, who also directs the work. “Mac’s take-no-prisoners satire of family dynamics is very much of our time, interrogating the bumps of transition that we are experiencing as the world turns away from a Western-centric hegemony. Hir examines the conflict between our need for safety and our desire to risk it all to find a better, truer way to live — no matter the collateral damage to those we love. Each of the characters in the play is undergoing profound transformation, just as we are feeling colossal shifts in our cultural and political landscape. Hir puts a deliciously caustic bow on all of it.”

Pi Theatre’s Hir Jordan Fowlie and Victor Dolhai
Photo: Emily Cooper.

Called an “audacious and uproarious black comedy” by The New York Times, the play follows the dishonourably discharged Isaac, returning home from the battlegrounds of Afghanistan to find an equally embattled homefront. His father, Arnold, has suffered a stroke and been rendered incapacitated; his mother, Paige, is finally out from under the thumb of her violently domineering husband; his younger sibling, Max, is a transgender teen out to destabilize the patriarchy. The confluence of Arnold’s disability and Max’s coming out has turned Paige toward a radical feminism that sees her refusing to clean the house in an act of unbridled defiance. She exacts revenge on her husband for years of verbal and physical abuse, humiliating Arnold by force-feeding him estrogen, dressing him as a wild drag clown, and putting him in diapers. While Hir is a manic, absurdist tragicomedy, it is also a wake up call about the need for honest communication. 

Directed by two-time Jessie Award-winning Richard Wolfe, Hir features an extraordinary cast of accomplished performers from across Canada.
Hir is now onstage at
Vancouver Civic Theatre’s Annex, 823 Seymour St, Vancouver. Tickets are on sale at pitheatre.com/hir

Picks of the Week – November 14, 2018

Midway through November, we find the Holiday season picking up pace to bring lots of entertainment and activities to the picks of the week

Ceasefire: Honouring Remembrance Day, The Cultch honours the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice with the continuing Ceasefire Series as the last of three plays exploring the causes, effects, and traumas of war from different lenses wrap up.

Mac: Spend the Evening with Fleetwood Mac as the legendary band visits Rogers Arena tonight, November 14

From left: Owen Scott (Ralphie), Brennan Cuff (The Old Man), and Stef Stanley (Mother).
photo: Robert Sondergaard

Red Rider: Get in the Spirit of the Season as Align Entertainment brings the holiday classic A Christmas Story: The Musical to the Michael J. Fox Theatre stage in Burnaby, closing November 17, 2018

EnemyThe Enemy at The Firehall Arts Centre is a topical, contemporary interpretation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, running until December 1, 2018

Son: Gateway Theatre remounts, the autobiographical one-man show, Empire of the Son, a son’s tale of an emotionally distant father, closing November 17, 2018

Jazz: Tyrant Studio’s Friday Jazz brings Stephanie Davis with the sounds of Broadway to the Tyrant Studio Lounge upstairs from The Penthouse

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

Austen: The Arts Club Holiday Season shows get underway with a festive follow up to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley runs November 15 – December 30.

Sense: Exit 22 Production’s 2018-19 season gets underway at Blueshore Financial Centre for Performing Arts at Capilano U, with an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility the story of sisters Marianne, free-spirited and romantic, and Elinor, sensible and reserved who find themselves thrown into an unkind world when their father dies, running November 15 – 24.

Pucks: The Vancouver Canucks play host to Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Arena on November 17th

Crawl: From November 15 to 18, 2018 the 22nd Annual Eastside Culture Crawl brings art lovers from all around Metro Vancouver to East Vancouver, for four days of open studio visits.

Supertramp: The famed Roger Hodgson brings his catalogue of classic rock sounds to the River Rock Show Theatre on November 17th and at Hard Rock Casino Vancouver on November 18th,

Laughs: Saturday nights Tyrant Studio’s Comic Strip brings stand-up comedy to the Studio Lounge Stage from Levi McCachen, with Ola Dada and Gavin Clarkson

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

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.  

BBall: College Basketball comes to town as the Vancouver Showcase features 4 men’s and 8 women’s U.S. Division I college basketball teams competing on Nov. 18-24 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Pop: Sunday night, Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall returns to town supporting her new album WAX at the Imperial Vancouver on Main Street.

Picks of the Week – November 7, 2018

The Holiday season is underway, but this weekend we also take a moment out of the entertainment to remember the 100th anniversary of the armistice of WWI.

Ceasefire Series : Three Winters
photo: Emily Cooper

Ceasefire: The Cultch honours the Armistice with the Ceasefire Series of three plays exploring the causes, effects, and traumas of war from different lenses,

Honour: Sunday November 11th, veterans will be honoured at the Cenotaph at Victory Square in Vancouver, starting at 10am, followed by a Remembrance Day Parade.

Dumplings: Tonight, get your fill of delightfully filled morsels as Vancouver Foodster and Tasting Plates YVR present Dumpling Fest 2018, an exploration of Dumpling dishes around Vancouver

Bloom: Thursday night, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre welcomes Troye Sivan: The Bloom Tour, with guest Kim Petras

Ache Brasil
Pic: David Cooper Photography

Brazil: Celebrate the Bossa Nova as Vancouver Latin American Cultural Centre Society (VLACC) presents a dazzling concert showcasing Brazil’s multi-faceted musical culture in Aquarela do Brasil: An Explosive Celebration of Music and Dance, November 8 & 9, 20188pm at Vancouver Playhouse.

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

Clockwise from bottom left: Georgiy Rhatushnyak (Randy), Stefanie Stanley
(Mother), Brennan Cuff (The Old Man), Owen Scott (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

Screening:  Thursday evening join MISCELLANEOUS Productions for a free screening for the Vancouver film premiere of Monsters, at The Annex, preceded by a new 5-minute short film, Ghosts of Productions Past.

Enemy: The Enemy at The Firehall Arts Centre is a topical, contemporary interpretation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, running November 10 – December 1, 2018

JTJustin Timberlake brings his Man of the Woods tour to Rogers Arena for two dates Thursday and Friday night

Son: Gateway Theatre remounts, the autobiographical one-man show, Empire of the Son, a son’s tale of an emotionally distant father, running November 8 – 17, 2018

Laughs: Just for Laughs presents French comedy star,  Gad Elmaleh at the Chan Centre for Performing Arts at UBC on Thursday evening.

Sweat: 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

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.  

Pop: British pop singer/songwriter Lily Allen brings her sounds to the stage at Vogue Theatre on Friday night

Free Film Screening of Miscellaneous Productions “Monsters”

Vancouver’s MISCELLANEOUS Productions is a non-profit, charitable society using art as a path for social change and personal transformation in culturally and socially at-risk youth – empowering them to be fully participating citizens.

Monsters
pic Chris Randle

Last year, the company debuted, Monsters – an anti-racism, anti-bullying play with hip hop and World music and dance. Funding from Heritage Canada allowed for MISCELLANEOUS Productions to document the production on film, which is making its Vancouver debut November 8th. Screening in Canadian communities this fall, the film forms the basis of dialogues and performing arts workshops with/for culturally and socially inclusive multi-barriered youth.

Monsters is a transdisciplinary musical theatre work loosely based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It explores how and why a community creates and supports a ‘monster’, how collusion functions, and how people are often attracted to individuals with loud, brash, forceful or aggressive personalities but are unaware of how incredibly damaging they can be.

Monsters premiered in October of 2017 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre. Following the Vancouver opening of Monsters, components of the production toured to Catalonia in November 2017.

Ghosts of Productions Past
pic: Chris Randle

On Thursday November 8th, MISCELLANEOUS Productions is holding a FREE screening for the Vancouver film premiere of Monsters, at The Annex, 823 Seymour Street.  The Monsters film screening will be preceded by MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ 5-minute short film, Ghosts of Productions Past. Making its World Premiere, the short is a new and nasty feminist satire of the whiteness of the Canadian theatre scene, #MeToo, #TimesUp and the recent disturbing events at various North American theatre companies.  

MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ Free Screening of Monster, with Ghosts of Productions Past, takes place November 8, 2018 at 7pm. Doors open at 6pm, admission is free but seating is limited.  Due to scenes of violence, the screening is not recommended for children 12 or under. 

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