7 Minutes In Heaven with Eternal Theatre Collective

Playwright Steven Levenson is Broadway’s hot writer, the 2017 Tony Award winner for Best Book of a Musical, but before Dear Evan Hansen,  Levenson cut his teeth on 7 Minutes In Heaven.

Eternal Theatre Collective, brings 7 Minutes In Heaven to Vancouver with a run at Studio 16, until March 10th.  The youth run theatre organization is dedicated to providing young actors experience in live theatre.  Seven Minutes In Heaven is a perfect production for this type of troupe, the play, set in the early 90s, centres around 6 teens at a basement party. What follows is a series of random vignettes spanning their evening’s activities. Filled with non sequiturs as the teens, each filled with their own angst and insecurities, try to amuse themselves with games of Candyland, Truth Or Dare, Wink Murder, Spin The Bottle and of course Seven Minutes In Heaven.  Moments of maturity compete with the adolescent insecurities, peer pressure, hormones and awkwardness.

The awkwardness played well with the varying experience of the cast, the play allows any fumbles and slips to seem like natural social stumbles that we all remember from our youth, no matter when you grew up.  The script is filled with cringeworthy moments of mocking, bitchiness, scandal and emotions. Some of the characters break the fourth wall with the awareness of where they’re going in life or what brought them to this time, just to remind us in hindsight that what was so important at 15 years of age, is just a blimp in our road of life.
Director Allyson Fournier and the cast have created a world that will feel familiar to most of us, the realistic basement set and 90s era pop soundtrack take us back to a time before the internet, cell phones, selfies and social media. While we like to think of those times as simpler and more innocent, 7 Minutes In Heaven reminds us that the trials and tribulations faced by teens is the same through every generation, only amplified in our globally connected times.

Now let’s use that social connection for good and share the word about Eternal Theatre Collective’s production of 7 Minutes In Heaven, at Studio 16 until March 10, 2018, tickets are on sale online at eternaltheatre.com

Next To Normal tackles mental illness

West Moon Theatre is presenting the award-winning rock musical Next To Normal at Studio 16 Theatre until February 17th.

In a unique turn, this production is double cast with two separate casts taking on the challenging musical’s heavy content and numbers.  The double cast allows for two interpretations of the characters and brings a different dynamic to the alternate performances.  The performance I had the privilege of seeing was the opening night for Cast A.  Director Chris Lam has noted that the expanded cast promotes diverse casting and representation, as the younger cast of many recent graduates have the opportunity to work alongside experienced professionals.

Next To Normal looks at a family with a mother with Bipolar Disorder and the fall out that her mental illness has on the rest of her family.  Diana (played in Cast A by Marie West) is consumed by her illness and with the support of husband Dan, (Mark Wolf) tries various treatments to find a ‘normal’ life.  Daughter Natalie (Katrina Teitz) overachieves in hopes of attaining her mother and father’s recognition but Diana’s illness, and her brother Gabe, who seemingly can do no wrong, always seems to take their attention from her.  As Diana and the family battle the ups and down of her illness the audience can’t help but have a sense of anxiety too in the unknown that lays ahead for them.

A musical as well known as Next To Normal and the award-winning performances of the original Broadway casts, puts a lot of pressure on the cast to make their own mark on the characters.  Chris Lam’s direction strips the play to its bare bones, focusing on the characters and exposing their flaws and fears.  In the intimate space of Studio 16, and with the very stripped down staging, the audience is so close to the action it feels like they’re sitting in the kitchen with the family.

The small orchestra is also onstage with the players, at first a worry that the music would overtake the acting but the instrument volume was just right.  While there was some audio technical issues during the second act, one speaker wasn’t working well, making the audio slightly difficult to hear at times, the cast put their hearts into their vocals. Marie West tears into the songs, tackling the Tony Award winning role with all her might but at times her vocals were difficult to distinguish on the polyphonic numbers.  Mark Wolf’s voice stood out with the perfect level to fill, but not overpower, the small room. Wolf and Blake Sartin (playing Henry, Natalie’s boyfriend) harmonize perfectly in their answer to each other on “A Promise’.  Katrina Teitz was a bit pitchy but her characterization of the put-upon Natalie showed her potential for the future.  Having seen Daren Dyhengco, who like Teitz is a grad of Capilano U Theatre program, only in the dramedy The Day Before Christmas, I wasn’t sure how he would carry the heavier message and cornerstone songs of Next To Normal but he too showed great lead actor potential.

West Moon Theatre’s Next To Normal runs at Studio 16, 1555 W 7th Ave, until February 17, 2018.
Tickets are available online at nexttonormalvan.brownpapertickets.com

 

Hardline Productions presents REDPATCH

Redpatch – image: David Cooper

Vancouver’s Hardline Productions latest work, Redpatch, is a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the contribution and sacrifice made by Canada’s First Nations, Metis and aboriginal people.

With an all Aboriginal cast, Redpatch follows the a young Métis, Woodrow or Halfblood, played by co-writer Raes Calvert, who longs to be a warrior so volunteers for the battlefields of WWI, much to his Grandmother’s chagrin. Grandmother uses traditional stories to try to convince Woodrow that he doesn’t need to fight the “White Man’s War” to be a warrior.  Through flashbacks we learn of his experiences in the ‘white school’ with his best friend Jonathan.  In the battlefields of France, our young soldier endures the trenches, discrimination while becoming a standout scout.  The mental and physical stress takes its toll, was this how he thought being a warrior was like?

image : Mark Halliday

Co-writer and director Sean Harris Oliver has kept the staging simple and imaginative, incorporating both modern and traditional aboriginal movements to weave the stories together.  First Nations legends form a basis for the modern stories. To make sure the stories are faithfully told, Calvert and Oliver spent many hours in libraries and travelling to remote First Nations communities, including Nootka Island, where their fictional soldier calls home.  For those of us growing up on the Coast the traditional stories are familiar, and with Vimy in the headlines, the production has a depth and history that makes it feel timeless.

Now playing at Studio 16, the intimacy of the theatre, allows the audience to feel like they’re part of the action. The only drawback is the rake of the seating makes some of the low movements on the floor difficult to see from some seats.

Redpatch runs until April 16th at Studio 17 in Le Centre Cultural Francophone Vancouver on West 7th Ave. Visit hardlineproductions.ca for more information and tickets.

Audience members should be aware that the production includes the use of artificial smoke/fog, flash and strobe lighting and explosions. 

 

Mitch & Murray Present “Speed The Plow”

SpeedThePlowDavid Mamet’s “Speed The Plow” is a satirical look into the Hollywood movie business.  Award winning theatre company, Mitch and Murray Productions are presenting “Speed The Plow”, opening November 13th at Studio 16 on West 7th in Vancouver.

Directed by David Mackay the play stars Craig Erikson & Aaron Craven as movie producers set to hit it big until Kayla Doerksen’s character throws a spanner in the works and derails their big hit.

“Speed The Plow” runs November 13 – 29 at Studio 16, 1555 West 7th Avenue.
Showtimes: Tuesday – Saturday 8pm.
Ticket Prices: Tuesdays = 2 for $25, Wed/Thur = $18 single, Fri/Sat = $23 single