Picks of the Week – March 21, 2018

Spring has sprung in Vancouver, let these picks put a lively spring in your step as you get out and about this week.

Wine: Vinoscenti Vineyards is celebrating the Spring Equinox & German style wines tonight with a special evening of tasting and entertainment at the Surrey winery

Junos:  The 2018 JUNO Awards fill the city with music and celebrations throughout the week.

Film: The Maple Ridge Festival of BC Film brings the best of BC Film to Maple Ridge ACT Centre this weekend.

Kicks: Vancouver Whitecaps FC play host to LA Galaxy on Saturday March 24 at BC Place

Comedy: The Gateway Theatre presents the romantic comedy I Lost My Husband, already sold out until March 24th

Market: Made On Saltspring brings Saltspring Island’s famed Saturday market to Vancouver’s Heritage Hall this weekend, explore the artisans, crafters, designers and builders March 23-25

Country: Canadian country singer/songwriter Brett Kissel comes to the Vogue Theatre on Saturday night

Cohen: The Firehall Arts Centre celebrates its 35th Anniversary with its award winning Chelsea Hotel: The Songs of Leonard Cohen playing until April 21st.

Dance: It’s the last chance to catch world class dance before the Vancouver International Dance Festival wraps up this Saturday.

Reel Wheels
Sequence L-R: Jake Anthony, Amy Amantea, Krista Skwarok, Byron Noble
Photo: Tim Matheson

DNA: Realwheels Theatre presents Sequence, a thought provoking drama, at Presentation House Theatre in North Vancouver until March 24th

Haida: Until June 15, Museum of Vancouver has a new exhibition, Haida Now. A collaboration with The Haida Gwaii Museum bring 450 works together in a one of a kind collection of Haida arts and culture.

Culture: Musqueam, Squamish, Lil’wat, Heiltsuk, Nisga’a, Haida are collaborating for the first time so you can learn more about the cultures of these First Nations and the importance of their cultural centres at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC’s new exhibition Culture at the Centre, until October 8th.

Family: As one show closed another opens at The Arts Club,  the emotional new family drama, Forget About Tomorrow, from a creator of Mom’s The Word, wraps up at Goldcorp Stage at BMO Theatre Centre on Sunday, while another family drama opens, the Tony-Award winner, The Humans takes to the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.

Realwheels Theatre presents Sequence

As luck would have it, Realwheels Theatre is presenting Sequence by Arun Lakra at the Presentation House Theatre in North Vancouver, until March 24th.

It’s not uncommon for a piece of theatre to be inquisitive, Sequence asks many and leaves us with even more questions.  Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is our luck and destiny predetermined by our genes? Is there such a thing as coincidence?

Sequence is a face-paced combination of science and comedy, that leaves you thinking.  The play is told in two parallel and possibly intersecting scenes.  On one side, the “Luckiest Man Alive” (Byron Noble) questions his luck when he is met by a young lady (Krista Skwarok) who think she’s figured out his secret.  In the opposite scene, a scientist (Amy Amantea) attempts to determine if she has found the “luck” gene when she confronts possibly the unluckiest student (Jake Anthony), who believes in God’s plan.  In both stories, the debate leads us to question what we think we understand.  The final twist in the show leaves us the conclusion of Sequence up to the audience to determine, like choose your own ending theatre.  Your interpretation of the ending may change with each viewing, with Arun Lakra’s  script having so many intricacies and each question offering multiple points of view.

Reel Wheels
L-R: Jake Anthony, Amy Amantea, Krista Skwarok, Byron Noble
Photo: Tim Matheson

Reelwheels Theatre is a inclusive, non-profit Vancouver theatre company that offers opportunities and integrates disabilities on and off the stage. Disabilities are an important thread of the script that weaves seamlessly into the DNA of the play,  Amy Amantea, a legally blind actor playing a character losing her eyesight, and Jake Anthony, who is on the autism spectrum, plays a wheelchair-bound student,  the actors lending added authenticity to their characters and in the process, deepening the audience’s understanding of the disability experience.

You’ll be lucky, or will you, if you can catch Sequence, playing at Presentation House Theatre, 333 Chesterfield Ave, North Vancouver until March 24, 2018.  For more information and to purchase tickets visit realwheels.ca 


Get Outside To The JFL NorthWest Block Party

JFL NorthWest – Vancouver’s Comedy Festival is well underway bringing laughs to our long winter.  Now with spring around the corner JFL NorthWest challenges us to take the comedy outside,  The JFL NorthWest Block Party takes us to the street at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza on Wednesday, March 7 to Friday, March 9 from 5:00pm to 10:00pm each day. 

JFL NorthWest Block Party patrons will be entertained by various Just For Laughs stand-up specials plus Just For Laughs GAGS, presented by Tim Hortons, on the big outdoor screen and will be treated to performances by Coldwater Road’s Patrick Spencer and music by Adrienne featuring Drix. Audiences can expect a few surprise special guests as well as meet and greets with Victor, the Just For Laughs mascot!

In addition to the outdoor entertainment, JFL NorthWest Block Party-goers can look forward to tasty food truck treats from The Reef Runner and Cheese Street Grill along with complimentary beverages from Tim Hortons, and libations from Sleeman Breweries and Hopping Mad Cider in the beer garden. The JFL NorthWest Block Party will also feature an LED Games Tent for anyone wanting to satisfy their ping pong and foosball needs.

JFL NorthWest runs until March 10th, bringing 100+ performances to the stages and venues, as well as the Vancouver Just For Laughs Film Festival running in conjunction with the comedy festival.

For tickets, schedules and more information visit jflnorthwest.com

Picks of the Week – February 28, 2018

The end of February…already!? Let’s see what March has to offer in these picks of the week.

HipHop: Tonight at The Vogue, Ty Dolla $ign brings his hip hop, soul blended sounds to the stage

Coastal First Nations Dance Festival

Dance: The 11th Annual Coastal First Nations Dance Festival at MOA brings together Indigenous Music and Dance from the Pacific to Scandinavia, until March 4th

Rain: 7 Tyrants Theatre’s 10th Anniversary season continues with A Steady Rain at the Penthouse Studio Theatre until March 3rd.

Folk: Canadian folk artist Bahamas brings his sunny sounding moniker to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Thursday

Comedy: Laughter reigns supreme as JFL Northwest bring the best and funniest of comedy stars to Vancouver from March 1st to 10th

Rock: Touring on behalf of their latest, Grace Street, rockers Big Wreck take to the Commodore Ballroom twice this week on Thursday & Friday

Trucks: The weekend gets raucous at Pacific Coliseum as Monster Jam has 4 shows over Mar 2-4, 2018

Theatre: The Arts Club has the Tony award winning Fun Home at Granville Island Stage running until March 10

Pucks: The Vancouver Canucks take to the ice on Friday as they play host to Nashville at Rogers Arena

Pss Pss photo: Pipo Gialluisi

Clowning: Taking inspiration from classic comedic works from Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin,  Pss Pss by Compagnia Baccalà runs until March 4th at The Cultch York Theatre.

Exhibition: The Vancouver Art Gallery celebrates the opening of Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg with a birthday bash, preview, dinner and party, the day before the opening of the Japanese artist’s first Canadian retrospective.

WhitecapsFCKicks: Whitecaps FC bring soccer back to BC Place to kick off their 2018 season on Sunday with a roster of new and old faces

Picks of the Week – February 21, 2018

Even through the current temperatures don’t feel like it, spring is just one month away, let’s see if the picks of the week can keep us warm in the meantime

Pizza: Tonight, find some of Vancouver’s best pizzas on Vancouver Foodster’s 3rd Pizza Palooza, a roaming exploration of the city’s pizzas and flatbreads.

Extended:  At Fly Over Canada the Lunar New Year double-bill of Flight of the Dragon, along with the regular Fly Over Canada experience, now held over until February 25th.

Ania Soul, Kawa Ada & Mayko Nguyen
Photo: Joseph Michael Photography

Moon: The Canadian Classic play, Salt-Water Moon, comes to the Gateway Theatre from February 15 – 24

RingTravel The Road To Wrestlemania with the WWE as they set up the ring in Rogers Arena on Friday night

R&B: Singer/Songwriter Miguel brings some soul to the PNE Forum on Saturday night

A Steady Rain : Daniel Doerksen & David Newham

Rain: 7 Tyrants Theatre starts their 10th Anniversary season with A Steady Rain at the Penthouse Studio Theatre until March 3rd.

Theatre: The Arts Club has a pair of shows on stage, experience the backstage antics of Jitters on at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until February 25 and the Tony award winning Fun Home at Granville Island Stage running until March 10.

performer: Anne Cooper photo: David Cooper

Dance: The Firehall Arts Centre welcomes the movements of From Where We Stand: A Share Evening Of Dance, two individual performances unnecessary and I Can’t Remember The Words For I Can’t Remember

Rock: German rock group at Tokio Hotel takes the Vogue Stage on Saturday night

Clowning: Taking inspiration from classic comedic works from Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin,  Pss Pss by Compagnia Baccalà runs until March 4th at The Cultch York Theatre.

Exhibition: The Vancouver Art Gallery celebrates the opening of Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg with a birthday bash, preview, dinner and party, the day before the opening of the Japanese artist’s first Canadian retrospective.

Toronto Dance Theatre
photo: Guntar Kravis


Mix: DanceHouse presents the Toronto Dance Theatre 50th Anniversary performance House Mix at the Vancouver Playhouse on Friday and Saturday


Salt-Water Moon brings simplicity to Gateway Theatre

Ania Soul, Kawa Ada & Mayko Nguyen
Photo: Joseph Michael Photography

Salt-Water Moon has been performed countless times since its debut in the mid 1980s, yet the current production at Gateway Theatre brings a fresh take to the Canadian classic.

The Factory Theatre production, on tour with Why Not Theatre is directed by Ravi Jain who reimagines David French’s story about the romantic beginnings of Jacob Mercer and Mary Snow’s relationship.  While it is the third in French’s Mercer Family play cycle, a tale about the Mercer’s a family of Newfoundland immigrants to Canada, Salt-Water Moon is really the beginning of the family’s story.   Salt-Water Moon is a snapshot of one night early in the courtship of Jacob and Mary.  The two-hander usually takes place on a stage set with the clapboard board porch of a 1926 Newfoundland home with the detailed period costumes as outlined by the playwright.  Ravi Jain has departed from this traditional take and added a new element to this staging.

Kawa Ada (left) & Mayko Nguyen (right) – Joseph Michael Photography

The gloss black stage is set with a constellation of floating candles, reflecting the night sky and creating a warmth as the stage twinkles.  Joining the two actors, Kawa Ada as Jacob and Mayko Nguyen as Mary, onstage is Ania Soul.  The soul/R&B musician provides a musical background to the poetic script and recites aloud David French’s script notes.  The notes describe the setting and actions but with the blank stage before them, the audience is allowed paint their own mental image to surround the two actors, who are dressed in simple modern street clothes.

By casting non-white actors as the Newfoundlanders, director Jain gently reminds the Canadian audiences that this is a play about immigrants, set before Newfoundland joined Confederation.  Kawa Ada, an Afghan-Canadian and Mayko Nguyen, who is of Vietnamese descent, bring a natural realism to their dynamic, even though they are clearly older than their teenage characters.  I believe by allowing the audience to set so much of the stage in their mind, it’s easier to believe the pair’s teen angst.  Ada’s Jacob is a cocksure, charismatic boy who has matured beyond his years after a year-long stint in Toronto. Meanwhile, Nguyen’s Mary, in spite of the firm facade forged from being in-service to the local Member of Parliament’s household from an early age, maintains the innocence of small-town Newfoundland.  With a mother unable to care for her and her younger sister, who is now in the care of a convent, Mary thinks she has it all worked out, until Jacob’s return to town throws a wrench in her plans.

Kawa Ada is a commanding presence onstage, nicely balancing Mayko Nguyen’s intensity.  Although I did find it a bit hard to hear her when she was facing the back of the stage and it took a few moments to adjust to the Newfoundland dialect the play is an enjoyable opportunity to visit the other side of the country in a time long-ago. The 90 minute (no intermission) moves along quickly as your mind fills in the paint-by-numbers imagery while the actors provide the dialogue and Ania, the music.

Salt-Water Moon runs until February 24, 2018 at Gateway Theatre in Richmond.  Find tickets and times online at gatewaytheatre.com 

Fun Home grows up on The Arts Club stage

The 2015 Tony Award winning Best Musical, Fun Home makes its Canadian debut on The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island stage. Based on the graphic autobiography by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, and directed by Lois Anderson, Fun Home features the adult Alison (Sara-Jeanne Hosie) trying to overcome a bout of writer’s block.  While looking back into the moments of her life she unlocks dormant memories and feelings of childhood, growing up and coming out and most importantly her relationship with her father.

The 10 year old, tomboy, Small Alison, played in a powerhouse performance by Jaime MacLean, imagines life to be like a Partridge Family episode but her obsessive compulsive father, Bruce (Eric Craig) has other ideas.  The historic home restorer, English teacher, FUNeral HOME director runs a tight ship at home and work while fighting his own personal battles. In hindsight, adult Alison can see the cracks in her fathers veneer, living in a small town during the era of the ‘love that dare not speak its name’, he occassionally gives in to his gay urges, at times dangerously steps into predatory territory.

When she heads to college,  the Medium Alison (played by Kelli Ogmundson)  comes out to herself and her family as a lesbian.  As her father grows more manic, her mother, Helen, played by Janet Gigliotti, reveals that she isn’t the perfect sitcom mom that Alison envisioned, instead she did her best to tolerate her husband’s affairs with men and the humiliation of him being caught with underage boys.  Believing her coming out was a trigger for her father’s mental state she finally unlocks her memories and puts the puzzle pieces of his life, together with her own and overcomes her writer’s block as their stories have poured out of her pencil onto the pages.

In a time when the LGBT community has made great gains in visibility, Fun Home reminds us that not long ago things were very different for the generations before us.  While Fun Home takes the audience on an emotional journey, Lisa Kron’s book and lyrics, with music by Jeanine Tesori, are able to bring in lighthearted moments to balance.
All the performers, the youth and adult actors and musicians, in this production of Fun Home shine.  Amir Ofek’s set makes us feel at home inside the historic Bechdel home, complimented by Amy McDougall’s costumes that those of us who grew up in a similar era will remember (somewhat) fondly.

Fun Home plays at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage until March 10th. Visit artsclub.com for tickets and times.