PRECIOUS LITTLE - VAN FRINGE 2018
Precious Little has been described as a play about a pregnant 42-year-old lesbian, who has, until now, put her career ahead of her desire to have a family.
...I hate that description. It assumes that a woman who is pregnant after 40 must explain herself. Indeed, the protagonist, Brodie (played by Sara Andrina Brown), spends a lot of time explaining herself. In the genetic counselling office, she clarifies that, as a lesbian, she used a donor, and that, yes, she is aware of the risks for a woman her age. Both age and communication are themes that intertwine. The three women actors are themselves different ages, with varying backgrounds and experiences, playing characters who span generations. Brodie, a linguist, is having an affair with a younger grad student, while studying the lost language of an older immigrant woman. Amidst all this, Brodie forms a profound connection with a gorilla at the zoo.
Precious Little forces us to confront the ways we use language to belittle, to patronize and to disguise what we mean. Brodie, as a character, is utterly unlikeable (a testament to skillful writing, directing and acting). She is callous and unkind to her young lover, and uses her academic status as a weapon or shield. But her armour is also her humanity.
Precious Little is a strange play that asks tough questions about the world. In the end, we don’t necessarily have the answers. But we might be a little closer to understanding one another.
~ reviewed by Reija Jean Roberts
The Shape of Things is a dramatic small ensemble, produced by Heckin’ Good Theatre, and playing as part of the Dramatic Works Series at the VanCity Culture Lab. This show is very long, with a 100 minute running time, and it feels unnecessarily dragged out.
The opening set design was captivating, with a naked statue on a pillar, in what is clearly a museum or art gallery. A series of blocks were creatively used throughout the show, in probably the best set design I’ve ever seen at a Fringe show. Unfortunately the actors spent an inordinate amount of time setting them up between scenes.
The last third or quarter of The Shape of Things is excellent and fascinating, but it’s a shame that the road to get there was so protracted and clunky. Your mileage will vary on whether you think the ending is worth sticking it out for.
The purpose of the piece seems to be an examination of the concept of performance art, and where to draw the line between art versus other forms of behaviour. There are also interesting ideas here about boundaries, the need for connection and acceptance, and the negative/positive dichotomy of change. Unfortunately, the clear want to explore these ideas is lost in the execution, which does not substantively address its central topics until the very end, despite some early flirtations with these ideas. As a result, by the time there is any real engagement in these ideas, the show ends, and one is left to wonder what the first 75 minutes were spent doing.
The Shape of Things has some great ideas and themes, but they are buried under significant structural problems, very unnatural dialogue, and a severe lack of clear character motivations. Marissa Burton, who plays Jenny, admirably manages to overcome these difficulties and imbue her character with naturalism and believability.
I would go back to the drawing board with this piece and try to mould something new out of some great concepts.
The Shape of Things is playing at VanCity Culture Lab 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Vanessa Marshall
CARRIAGE - VAN FRINGE 2018
My video review above addresses the trigger warnings for this show. Be aware of topics such as child sexual and physical abuse, abuse denial, and acts of violence such as yelling, throwing things, and overall family trauma.
Carriage opens with Evelyn Lynden preparing for her daughter’s wedding. Her daughter in law, Grace, and son, Daniel, enter and the dynamic is made clear immediately. Evelyn does not like or respect Grace and dotes on Daniel. She consistently undercuts Grace in a variety of subtle and direct ways. Grace, played by the playwright Elise McRae, swallows her reactions out of consideration or her husband. The affection between the two characters is beautiful and sweet, the way they touch each other and lean into one and other communicates that these two have been together a very long time, we find out later they were high school sweethearts. Lucy, the bride to be enters with her fiancé, Simon, and the drama begins.
What follows is 60 minutes of vulnerable, raw and highly emotional content. Almost every relationship in the small group is blown wide open, and not every one gets put back together.
Technically this play was exceptional. The stage is well utilized, very basic stage props are used, lighting is consistent, the acting is really allowed to speak for itself. The play is beautifully written and executed. The actors have taken the time to craft their interconnected relationships in a way that they feel completely authentic. The action comes together in a way that is so believable it is possible to forget you are watching a performance. Kudos to McRae for tackling such a poignant topic with such aplomb.
~ reviewed by Brieanna Fiander
BLACKBIRD - VAN FRINGE 2018
When the write up in the Fringe guide said that Una and Ray had had an illegal relationship, I was curious why that was so ambiguous. Is it too much to spell it out? The play itself spelled out the extent of their illegal relationship in detail so theatre goer be warned that this play confronts sexual abuse and has scenes of violence.
Playwright, David Harrower has managed to give us a neutral view allowing us to enter into the minds of both characters and form our own opinions. Una is trying to understand what really happened and we are flies on the wall, along for the journey.
This version of the play is quite emotional and intense, yet sitting beside me was a young actor who had been cast previously and commented that the version she was in, was much more playful.
Blackbird by Kestrel Solutions Collective is playing at Shoreline Studios 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Melody Owen
Correction: Fassbinder wrote this story in the 1970s, not the pre-war early 20th century as I mistakenly mentioned in the video.
This modern take of Fassbinder’s 1972 movie features a cast of local emerging artists. But even though they’re all quite young, they handle the mature and multilayered themes that run throughout this play with skill and authenticity.
This plot follows two female lovers as they navigate the boundary between love and ownership. This is not a play about the challenges LGBT lovers face specifically so much as a story that anyone who has ever been in love or lust can relate to.
Especially compelling was the performance of Shelby Satterthwaite, who plays the role of Petra’s assistant. Satterthwaite is proof of that popular theatre trope that there are no small roles, only small actors. And in her role as Petra’s assistant, Satterthwaite is anything but small. She has no lines, but is on stage at all times, and the expressions she lets her character make are the most accurate indicator of Petra’s truth and lies at all times during this play.
Be ready to for the sort of drama that doesn’t leave you rolling your eyes, interrupted by moments of comedy that land just right. This show is a must for any film buffs and those who have always felt that gender roles fit them just a little too tight.
The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant by Midtwenties Theatre Society is playing at the VanCIty Culture Lab as part of the Dramatic Work Series in the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Elizabeth Goode
DEAR ELIZABETH - VAN FRINGE 2018
Wunderdog Theatre’s production of Dear Elizabeth is a touching portrayal of the 30-year pen-pal friendship between two poets – Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. The script consists entirely of quotes from the letters exchanged between them. The rare moments when the two do meet in real life are very short and staged in silence. It made me wonder what was left unsaid in their relationship, in real life and in the curated selection of letters presented in the play. What was crystal clear though, was the admiration, support, and love these two had for one another. Alexis Kellum-Creer’s performance as Elizabeth and Anthony Santiago’s as Robert achieved a level of emotional eloquence and complexity that really brought these letters to life.
PS – Sonja’s musings in light of seeing this play:
~ reviewed by Sonja Cvoric
BONNIE & CLYDE - VAN FRINGE 2018
A remarkably quiet piece given the subject matter, Bonnie & Clyde by Adam Peck is, more than anything else, about human fallibility, the need to be loved, to be understood, and the struggle to make one's own way in life.
Kennedy Sloane as Bonnie and Emmett Lee Stang as Clyde both give flawless and fully embodied performances, navigating the emotional undercurrents of alternating light banter and tense conversation with honesty and depth. With a minimal, but atmospheric set and soundtrack, I could feel the stifling heat and smell the dirty, dusty air of the pair's hideaway. This story is just a slice of time, at once dreamlike and shockingly mundane in the domestic details that make up any person's intimate hours.
Because the piece is so quiet and human and messy and unresolved, it does require stamina to stay present for the full 80 minutes. With the ebb and flow of tension remaining taught without building to any small moments of release, I did find my attention wandering, but they always brought me back.
I found this piece quite disturbing in the way it both charmed, delighted and troubled me. Director Larisse Campbell and these two talented actors have created a piece of subtle darkness doused in light. The rich undercurrents of which continue to visit my subconscious like a gently aching tooth.
Bonnie & Clyde by The Ordinary Productions is playing at the VanCity Culture Lab 6 - 16 September as part of the Dramatic Works Series at the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Danielle Benzon
Click "read more" for the full video transcript.
WHO WE CARE FOR - VAN FRINGE 2018
Written and directed by Kevin Opatovsky, Who We Care For is a timely and important story of drug addiction and the consequences for the addicted and those who love them. Behind every addict is at least one person who feels hopeful, hopeless and lost.
My favourite character was the young son whose anger and pain broke the tension with sarcastic and brutally honest outbursts. Someone had to say what everyone else was secretly thinking. Yet, it was obvious that he loved his father despite his failings as a parent.
If you have someone in your life who struggles with mental health or addiction, be aware of the intense emotions this play may bring to the surface.
Who We Care For by Strange Cat Productions is playing at the Havana Theatre 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Melody Owen
Click "read more" for the full video transcript.
Overcome Stage Fright and find confidence in your unique voice.