Review

Les Belles-soeurs: Review

Les Belles-soeurs: Review

Pictured: France Perras as Germaine Lauzon. Photo by Tim Matheson.

“My life is shit and it always will be… This stupid rotten life!” 

Jessica Kim

Germaine Lauzon (France Perras) wins one million- one million(!) Gold Star stamps that can be traded for anything on the catalogue. When she invites her sisters and neighbors for a stamp-sticking party, the jealousy boils over and the raw truths are revealed!

This production by Ruby Slippers Theatre hosted by Gateway Theatre is directed by Diane Brown, featuring many talented women including France Perras, Pippa Mackie, Beatrice Zeilinger, Tallulah Winkelman, and Emilie Leclerc. First produced in 1968, the play was seen as vulgar and inappropriate because of its’ portrayal of working class women and the usage of Québecois French opposed to the “proper” French. Of course, it isn’t so shocking that regular people are represented in theatre any more. However, the Canadian play by Michel Tremblay is celebrating its’ 50th anniversary and it is sadly still as relevant as ever.

The women are tired and complain about their men, their lives, and the endless work they have to do to take care of family. As a group, in unison, they are fearless and unafraid to say anything and do anything. However, each and every woman has her secret. Mademoiselle Verrette (Eileen Barrett) is in love, Angeline (Kerry Sandomirsky) goes to the club every Friday, God forbid, and Lise (Agnes Tong) is pregnant. They speak honestly, but not quite- the discreet honestly is reminiscent of any gathering of women gossiping away. The monologues show this inner struggle and conflicts within the generations and classes. Some are shown in unison with multiple women, like the famous “This stupid rotten life!” and “Ode to Bingo”. They are quite rhythmic and almost slam poetry-like. These still felt fresh and highly enjoyable, not to mention effective. After hearing nearly all their stories, one cannot help but sympathize with them. Though they can be stuck up, stuffy and biased, they are pathetic and frustrated in an endearing way. Notable performance go to Lucia Frangione, who plays Marie-ange Brouilette. Her acting is convincing and her chemistry with Germaine (France Perras) and Rose (Beatrice Zeilinger) is definitely present through all the bickering and fighting.

The set is massive, though it’s not filling the even bigger stage of Gateway Theatre. I was afraid the actors and the set was going to struggle to fit the height of the stage, but Brown created levels with her blocking, placing the actors on various furniture like the sink, tables, bookshelf and chairs. The costumes unify and set apart the women at the same time, from everyday work clothes of the middle aged women to the over-the-top Pierrette (Emilie Leclerc) and “rich” Lisette (Sarah Rodgers), along with the new generation, Linda (Pippa Mackie), Lise (Agnes Tong), and Ginette (Daria Banu).

At the end, as everything falls apart, nothing changed and nothing ever will change. Germaine believes too firmly in her ideas of what proper women are (though the ones she know prove to be not so proper after all) and is too stubborn to change her ways. But if we make efforts to bridge the gap, and understand both generations, we will be able to at least reach out like Pirrette does.

 

Les Belles-soeurs by Michel Tremblay is running at Gateway Theatre from September 27th to October 6th. 

Tickets | Facebook Event | Gateway Theatre

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SELF-ish (Fringe): Review

SELF-ish (Fringe): Review

Ivonne Zhao

SELF-ish tells a simple story: it follows the internal monologue of one Korean-Canadian woman, Esther Jin (Diana Bang), as she copes with the loss of her father. From the onset, too, it seems rather unfussy – the entire 60-minute play is a one-woman show run by Diana Bang, performed with simple lighting, a handful of sound cues, and a set made up of six cardboard boxes. But this minimalistic play is anything but simple – playwright Kuan Foo and director Dawn Milman have managed to carefully amalgamate universally felt experiences with wit and physicality to create a perfectly honest, sentimental story.

Kuan Foo’s quippy one-liners throughout the play are as funny as they are true, and Diana Bang transforms his almost poetic script into a story that becomes easily relatable to everyone, Asian-Canadian or otherwise. The balance of Diana’s gravitas and her physical comedy bring levity to darker subject matters, which the play addresses with nuance. Dawn Milman makes excellent use of the space, and although at times, the movement on stage becomes busy and hectic, it is necessary to capture the anxiety and tension that has built up inside Esther Jin and inside the audience.

All in all, SELF-ish is definitely a show worth catching before the Vancouver Fringe Festival draws to a close this weekend. Catch the last showing of SELF-ish this Saturday, September 15 at 2:15 p.m. at the Red Gate Revue Stage.

 

SELF-ish by Kuan Foo is running at the Red Gate Revue Stage as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival, September 6th – 16th (Select times)

Tickets | Facebook Event| Red Gate Revue Stage

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My Imagination Ran Away From Me (Fringe): Review

My Imagination Ran Away From Me (Fringe): Review

Jessica Kim

Somebody said: Hey, let’s do a little mini acrobatic circus show, but with only mattresses and men in tights as our equipment! So, this show was born. Josh Green, the creator and star of the show says it’s “a powerful message about procrastination… what if you fed it and it turned into something beautiful?” And indeed it is. The short, 30 minute show features Josh Green as Josh, a student living with his parents. There are three acts loosely connected by the character, first with him playing video games, then watching anime, which leads him to realize that he needs to get his life together, so he gets a job at the insurance company. However, his first client runs a peculiar business indeed…

Though there isn’t much to the plot, I like the connection between procrastination and imagination and their infinite possibilities! The tricks, flips and lifts are delightful and the colorful costumes captivate the audience. In most circus acts, you can usually tell who’s going to be lifted and who’s going to be lifting by their size, but in this show they were about the same size and build, which was impressive. It’s a fun little show worth catching! But if you’re coming from somewhere further way from Granville Island, I recommend double billing it with another show on the island just because it’s so short.

 

My Imagination Ran Away From Me by Josh Green is running at the Waterfront Theatre as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival, September 6th – 16th (Select times)

Tickets | Facebook Event | Waterfront Theatre

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Forget Me Not – The Alzheimer’s Whodunnit (Fringe): Review

Forget Me Not – The Alzheimer’s Whodunnit (Fringe): Review

Jessica Kim

“Darling. Are you here all day? All day? Marvelous!”

This show was nothing like I thought it would be, and by that I mean literally. I mean, if I actually read the press release beforehand I would’ve known, but where’s the fun in that? Yes, this was a “play” about a man with Alzheimer’s investigating his wife’s murder (who also had Alzheimer’s)… but everyone was played by Rob Gee. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone.

It works surprisingly well, though like any good old Japanese novel, you’re already halfway through by the time you know all the character’s names. Gee’s acting is charming, effective, and funny. One moment he is Janet, the ward manager (Did she kill Elsie?) and Mr. Barson at another. He is the nurse and he is the pompous detective. Based on the patients Gee encountered during his nursing days, the story is peppered with all kinds of patients and employees. While the story is funny and charming, the message is sweet and real. What becomes of you as a person when you’ve lost what makes you… you?

 

Forget Me Not – The Alzheimer’s Whodunnit by Rob Gee is running at the Red Gate Revue Stage as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival, September 6th – 16th (Select times)

Tickets | Rob Gee | Red Gate Revue Stage

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The Shape of Things (Fringe): Review

Danisa Rambing

On Monday of this week, a Cultch-style showing of Neil Labute’s notorious play, The Shape of Things brought an audience of roughly 30 theatre freaks, fans, fanatics onto an emotional roller coaster. The show starred Julian Legere, Fairlith Harvey, Marissa Burton and Harrison MacDonald and was directed by Chelsey Stuyt. This complex love story brings it all the way back to the nostalgic 1990s era with its slang and upbeat music. With the costume designs almost copied off an episode of Friends and the set design set to mimic the simplistic mind of Regan himself, the play was true to its story. The era that Labute set his story in was perfectly indeed showcased in this brief rendition. But perhaps one thing that should’ve stayed in 90s is lack of diverse representation.

In this political atmosphere, the performance was missing the big elephant in the room: a person of color. Be it as it may, the degree of criticism I have concerning this topic is of the utmost caliber. Theatre is a form of artistic expression that often fosters our image of political ideologies, namely cultural diversification and its presentation of it through media. It is 2018, and although the performers were absolutely exquisite, I bring it upon the executive team to reevaluate the “ideal” characteristics of a love story. Is it only meant to be performed by Caucasians? In fact, I, having seen this play performed numerous times, begin to recall that there has never been any person of color casted for any of the play’s roles. However sharp and direct this critique might be, it is a reminder that theatre does not sit on the fence during a time of raging political movements. It is the base material through which artists can sculpt their understanding of their world.

 

The Shape of Things by Neil Labute is running at the Cultch Culture Lab as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival, September 6th – 16th (Select times)

Tickets | Facebook Event | Cultch Culture Lab

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Poly Queer Love Ballad (Fringe): Review

Poly Queer Love Ballad (Fringe): Review

Jessica Kim

“Me first. Others, second.”

She was a mono lesbian singer-songwriter. She was a poly bisexual slam poet. Can I make it any more obvious? Poly Queer Love Ballad is exactly what the title promises. A new slam poetry musical written and performed by co-creators Sara Vickruck and Anais West, it is funny, delightful and bittersweet. On top of the simple girl-meets-girl story, there is music and poetry. Their conversations getting to know each other is a rapid exchange of single words, and the rhythm carries out the sheepish mood of the scene extremely well.

Gabbie (Sara Vickruck) is hesitant about polyamory but decides to try it for Nina (Anais West). But as time goes by, it’s clear their opposing ideas of love only gets between them. The music is lovely and sweet, the poetry powerful. They show the girls as individuals and they merge together to represent their relationship. There was great chemistry between the actors and the dialogue was smooth. We can’t help but sympathize with both of them, and feel sad and relieved about their relationship. This isn’t some random romantic comedy with queerness thrown in to make it more interesting, but rather a carefully written and performed piece showcasing the bitter-sweetness of love and the queer community at the same time.

 

Poly Queer Love Ballad by Sara Vickruck and Anais West is running at the Red Gate Revue Stage as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival, September 6th – 16th (Select times)

Tickets | Facebook Event | Red Gate Revue Stage

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Kim’s Convenience: Review

Kim’s Convenience: Review

Pictured: James Yi and Lee Shorten. Photo by Jalen Saip.

I love you, too, appa, and no one’s twisting my arm to say it

Jessica Kim

The cynic in me says representation is a fad. Disney wants it. Pixar shows it. Hollywood sells it. Black Panther, Moana, Coco, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Crazy Rich Asians… People want representation, so they’ll sprinkle it into a couple movies carelessly before going back to the way things were. This Youtube video comparing Moana and Coco argues that Coco does a better job representing the culture. The culture is crucial to Coco‘s storyline while Moana‘s is a simple hero’s journey. She could’ve been “an aardvark and she had find Matt Damon and save the world… from a giant shark slayer… or something.” But does representation only mean showcasing a specific culture? Coco is also a hero’s journey at the very core.

Representation focuses mainly on a particular culture and shows it through a compelling plot. The former overdone can be toxic. We are careful to criticize Crazy Rich Asians because it is OUR movie, but by doing that we risk exotifying ourselves even more. We risk other cultures dismissing such representative narratives as “not our story”. Crazy Rich Asians is geared towards a very specific, narrow target audience. While it is good for the said audience, it isolates the rest of the world from it. Of course, not everyone is going to relate 100% to everything. No one ever does. A good representative narrative still has relatable themes and characters that brings people together, while introducing a foreign culture.

All this summer I’ve been anticipating Kim’s Convenience at Pacific Theatre directed by Kaitlin Williams. The original play that birthed the TV show was written by a Korean Canadian playwright, Ins Choi. So for obvious reasons I was excited, but I was worried that I still wouldn’t see myself in the play. I wasn’t born in Canada and I always felt a little more in-between- but it worked in my favor. I was able to see myself in most of the characters. I saw myself in Janet (Jessica Liang) following her dreams, unlike her appa (James Yi), who sacrificed his for his family. I saw myself in umma’s (Maki Yi) love and compassion towards Jung (Lee Shorten), who couldn’t stand the cultural clash between his family and the outside world (which had become part of his ideals). I saw my family and myself, through the conversations and conflicts.

James Yi did a spectacular job portraying a typical appa (dad) down to the little habits and accent. The accent! How does he even do that? Not to mention his amazing delivery of the Korean lines, though there was certainly a hint of his own accent. The dialogue was believable and highly accurate. When I tried to summarize this show to my mother, the translation of appa’s lines in my head came so easily; I just knew what he meant to say in Korean. Unfortunately, Jessica Liang’s (Janet) performance fell a little short, overshadowed by Yi’s performance. Tré Cotten plays various characters not part of the family, and makes it seem smooth and effortless.

I have to take a quick moment to appreciate the amazing set and lighting design (Carolyn Rapanos and Jonathan Kim). The set was perfect down to every piece of gum and the florescent lighting really brought out the dimly lit convenience store’s 80s ~ 90s vibes. It reminded me of old supermarkets hidden in the corners of Coquitlam run by men like Mr.Kim.

The flashback, though, was a little confusing to follow. It could have been delivered a little better with some more indicative dialogue or drastic lighting design. The fact that appa was so supportive of Janet’s relationship also caught me off guard. Unrealistic as it is, the show was mostly about appa’s character growth. It was necessary for him to accept other cultures and by association, Janet. His open-mindedness shows that as the parents were living in Canada, they also changed. Many children think they are completely different and isolated from the parents, but with enough communication, a family can come to an understanding.

And that’s what this is all about. Family. The culture plays a lot into the conflicts, but at the end of the day it is about the family’s relationship. As I bawled and laughed at the most inappropriate moments (being bilingual means you can understand dick jokes in two languages!) I saw glimpses of other people in the audience shed a tear, laugh, and become invested in this family. Yes, I’m different. But so is everybody else. While this show was representing my culture and Korean immigrant families, we all could see part of our families in it.  And that’s what stories do, isn’t it, “representation” or otherwise.

 

Kim’s Convenience by Ins Choi is running at Pacific Theatre from September 7th to October 6th, with 8pm Wednesdays-Saturdays with 2pm Saturday matinees.

Tickets | Facebook Event | Pacific Theatre

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Die Hard: The Musical-ish (Fringe): Review

Die Hard: The Musical-ish (Fringe): Review

Jessica Kim

What a show to start off my Fringe adventure! Well, frankly, it was a safe choice- with a classic like Die Hard (1988) and a bunch of eighties pop hits like Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer and A-Ha’s Take On Me (kind of), it’s hard not to have an enjoyable experience. They utilized the small space at Studio 1398 by getting rid of any backstage space; the “wings” had actors standing with their backs towards the stage in front of a props table. Because there was so much action going onstage, it was surprisingly not as distracting as I thought it would be.

The humor was mostly derived from badly summarizing the movie and funky choreography/lyrics at the most inappropriate times. It does get a little bit repetitive but the director (Rick Vandenberg) breaks the 4th wall sometimes to comment on their low budget, how they don’t have “amazing” pyrotechnics like the movie, and even explains some of the scenes by giving a powerpoint presentation. The cast overall needed more projection or the accompaniment had to be lower, but the choreography (Paige Vassos) was definitely on point and much of the comic elements were well received by the audience largely thanks to it. The fight choreography was surprisingly good as well (because Die Hard), so notable performances go to Richard Meen, star (John McClane) and Fight Choreographer along with Vic Ustare, who went above and beyond with his acting as several characters including Takagi and Al.

Overall, this is a fun, traditionally comedic jukebox musical with some clever twists. This would be a good starter for easing into the Fringe Festival for those who are not familiar or comfortable with many experimental and more artsy Fringe shows.

 

 

Die Hard: The Musical-ish by Mark Vandenberg is running at Studio 1398 as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival, September 6th – 16th (Select times)

Tickets | Facebook Event | Studio 1398

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Marion Bridge: Preview

Marion Bridge: Preview

Pictured (L to R): Beatrice Zeilinger, Lynda Boyd and Nicola Cavendish. Photo by David Cooper.

Jessica Kim

Kay Meek Arts Centre and Wing & Prayer Productions present Marion Bridge, a play about three estranged sisters and their past, present, and future. Each sister struggles and confronts events and traumas while caring for their dying mother.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” (Anna Karenina: Leo Tolstoy)

Directed by Roy Surette. Featuring Nicola Cavendish, Lynda Boyd, and Beatrice Zeilinger.

Set Design by Tiko Kerr. Lighting Design by Micheal K. Hewitt. Stage Management by Rick Rinder.

 

Marion Bridge by Daniel MacIvor is running at Kay Meek Studio Theatre September 6th – 20th. Tuesday – Sunday at 7:30 pm and weekend matinees (2:30 pm).

Tickets Facebook Event | Kay Meek Studio Theatre

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