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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Elephant Wake - A Grande Visite with Jean-Claude!

A quick post to tell you about Elephant Wake currently playing at Catalyst Theatre.  Thankfully they added an Industry Show on Monday night so I was able to see it.  They also had a very funny talk-back with actor and playwright Joey Tremblay and Catalyst Artistic Director Jonathan Christenson facilitated by James MacDonald.

The show takes place in a paper filled ditch on the side of the road in Saskatchewan.  We are there to visit Jean-Claude (played by Tremblay).  Jean-Claude may not be the smartest person but he is a wonderful story-teller and during this Grande Visite we hear the story of his life, his town and the many deaths he has experienced.  It is magical and compelling, funny and sad, and simply beautiful. This is one of the best shows I have ever seen.  A good deal of that is due to the absolute completeness of Tremblay's characterization of Jean-Claude combined with a barrel full of stories that overlap and twist wonderfully to tell the story of his life.   It only runs until Saturday, November 29th so I strongly encourage you to get your tickets now and go see it.

You can get tickets here. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Back for a Second Helping of ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS with the Boys!


On Tuesday night the whole family headed to the Citadel to take in the wonderfully ridiculous One Man, Two Guvnors.  I had seen it earlier at Dress Rehearsal but was looking forward to seeing it again and having Mark and the boys experience it.  It was great to see it again and even better in that I got to hear Gibson and Oliver laughing hysterically at it.  Once The Craze started up Gibson was glued to the stage.  He's a big music fan and he was really impressed with the group and the variety of instruments on the stage.  He also loved the parts throughout the show when the other members of the cast joined in for their 'special' numbers.  I think his favorite was Jesse Gervais on the bicycle horns, but John Ullyatt on the Xylophone was also up there!  The show was simply terrific.  It's great to go to a show that you can still laugh at even though you've seen it before, even more rewarding when your 13 year old leans over 3/4 of the way through the first act and whispers, "This is SO good!" It's hard to impress a teenager!  Of course, he did like all the inappropriate bits the best... but he's 13 so what can you do?  He told me the next day that he was telling his teachers about it.  When I asked what he told them, he said, "That it was very funny, and not really appropriate for kids!" and then he laughed.  

I think their favorite parts were the audience participation and the physical humour.  There was much discussion of the audience elements on the way home, as well as incredulous talk about how many times Andrew MacDonald-Smith either fell down the stairs or got hit. Gibson wants me to get a copy of the soundtrack, because he really, really liked the music and he's even considering taking Ukelele lessons.  I'm thinking I probably could also get him a Be Arthurs CD... I know some people...

There are only 3 more shows left for this own.  It's one I would highly recommend.  There aren't a lot of seats left for Saturday, but you probably could get in Friday night or for the Sunday Matinee.  I doubt you will be disappointed and there's a high probability you will laugh so much it hurts!

One Man, Two Guvnors is at the Citadel until November 16th.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What are the chances? Sequence at Shadow Theatre...

I wish I'd had more time this past weekend to post.  I would have written about Sequence by Arun Lakra, now playing at Shadow Theatre. I saw it last Friday and really liked it.  What I loved the most about it was the extremely clever and smart script.  This was the winner of the 2011 Alberta Play-writing Competition and it's easy to see why it won.  The play is a study of chance and probability, of genetics and mathematics, and of humans dealing with all of them.  Two stories, seemingly unrelated, are told simultaneously, and layer by layer the probabilities add up.  I'm a bit of a weird mash-up of science and drama so this was the perfect piece for me.  My Education degree is a Physical Sciences (Physics and Chemistry) Major with a Minor in English and Math.  I have since taken enough Drama courses that I could have a major in that, as well.  So I really enjoyed the merging of my many worlds.  I loved that the script is smart - not just throw-away puns, but sophisticated references (and yes, I got the golgi body joke). It's also quite accessible, so fear not if your science is not up to snuff.  If you can understand the logistics of chance that exist with the flip of a coin, I think you'd be fine.

It's the layering and unwrapping of the play that's done so well.  The reveals in the two stories are carefully measured out for maximum payoff and aha moments. Although it engages your brain, I don't think you'll find it mentally exhausting - it's more of a yoga class than a free weight session - I think you'll leave a little more enlightened.

Sequence runs until November 16th at the Varscona.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Pulled In Another Direction...

Last night I took in the Opening Night of The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble by Beth Graham at Theatre Network. On the surface, the play is about children dealing with their aging parent who is struck by early onset Alzheimer's Disease.  More specifically, it is about the middle child, Iris (played by Clarice Eckford), and her struggle to help her mother deal with the disease on her own terms.  To that end, we spend a lot of time with Iris as she tells the story very pointedly from her perspective. She even warns us that the story will be told through her filter as storyteller.  What that results in is vibrant characters in the form of the loud and brassy older sister Sarah (Patricia Zentilli), the withdrawn and tension avoiding younger brother Peter (Jason Chinn) and the warm, beautiful and wise mother Bernice (Susan Gilmour). Iris' filter exaggerates the good and the bad in each of them.

There are many wonderful things with this production. Zentilli is terrific as the outspoken and opinionated older sister, Chinn finds a way to make his limited dialogue worth every syllable, and Gilmour is the mother everyone wants - wise, sad, and poised. Perhaps she is idealized a little by Iris, but Gilmour gives her a realness that is truly moving and heart-breaking.  It is Iris that feels a little lost, but maybe that was the point? Her every insecurity is on display as she narrates and reveals what she is feeling about the awkwardness of the situation she is placed in.  Her desire to avoid the ugliness of the situation but still respect her mother almost made her shrink amidst the larger than life personalities of the other characters, so much so that she sometimes appears to be drowning. My challenge as an audience member was connecting to Iris because I think I would react so very differently to the situation than she does.  In some ways I was horrified by what she 'goes along with' even though she doesn't seem to want to.  It's always the challenge with a first person narrator - the audience member can only relate as far as they can relate to that speaker.  I know from the many sniffles in the audience that there were many people who were completely engaged.  Perhaps they were more like Iris than I am, or maybe because I haven't been in that situation I am meant to seek to understand better what it might really be like to be Iris.  Let's hope I never have to find out first-hand..