Berger's sloppy treatment of the Jewish and anti-Semitic materials gives the play itself an air of anti-Semitism. This naïve, somewhat lazy writing effort seems to go out of control and winds up in unintended territory. Bright comedy devolves to dark disorder.
This is Samuel Beckett's "All That Fall," a 1957 radio drama staged by Vancouver's vital Blackbird Theatre. It's an extraordinary production that renders a deceptively simple narrative with a sophistication that makes this an important show.
You aren't likely to find a more solid, satisfying and well-produced show in Vancouver this holiday season. "Avenue Q" at The Arts Club on Granville Island is hilarious and dirty and sentimental. It's a gentle story about young adults who must find their ways after college. Imagine "Sesame Street" with frank discussions of sex and depression and you get an idea of how the show operates.
The show's musical star is Meghan Gardiner as toilet manager, Pennywise. She adds to the over-abundant exposition with the exuberant "It's a Privilege to Pee." She has the stage personality of a young Patti Lupone and lungs that grab and hold us. Glib and cynical, she's very funny and quickly becomes one of our favourite characters.
The director must give them life: make each character an individual, make the scenes sing so that the language comes not from the mouth of Shaw, but from the mouths of unique personalities, and make the arguments reflections of character rather than mere elements of Shaw's argument. That's where this Arts Club production really falls apart.
The play itself is interesting enough, and the characters strong enough, to sustain our interest for more than two hours. It premiered in 1954 with Geraldine Page as Lizzie and received a Broadway revival in 1999 with Woody Harrelson as Starbuck. As an exercise for young actors, this production probably works well. As a coherent piece of drama, not so much.
The new Arts Club production "4000 Miles" is inoffensive, irrelevant, and trite. This much-produced American comedy from 2011 provides warm reassurance that familial love is good. Intended to warm the heart with warm humour, it inadvertently challenges us to care about the obnoxious protagonist. But a lack of story is the play's greatest weakness.
Anita Rochon's inspired approach to this maligned play is a great success. She exploits the its weaknesses and makes them strengths. She turns her seven actors into a full cast of 18 using a scheme so clever and funny it occasionally upstages Shakespeare himself. And that's a good thing.
A very talented cast struggles valiantly through a text that rejects dramatic development at this Bard on the Beach show. This is too bad, because without a plot, "Equivocation" is just an endless stream of platitudes.
Allan Morgan's portrayal is tentative. His Prospero seems shy. Morgan seems to cower beneath the role, never fully inhabiting it. His voice lacks confidence. This is a meek and gentle magician, a follower. It's all wrong. Morgan hasn't the stature for the role. A good character actor, he fails to command the stage as arguably Shakespeare's most powerful character.
Scott Bellis' Bottom is comic confection. This is a mighty performance. The audience enjoys a frisson of excitement each time Bellis steps into the light. The performance is a careful, studied piece of work that is truly original and may leave you gasping for breath. The rest of the play pales beside him.
A parade of remarkable (but rarely thrilling) acts take the stage, one after the other, with a rhythm closer to "The Ed Sullivan Show" than traditional Cirque. This revue approach is disappointing not only because the show has no flow, but because it does not build to a climax.
The production, directed by Sarah Rodgers, is very good. The show is at its best with the realistic story. Rosa fights with her mother and stepmother (battles that are usually hilarious), and Amante narrates the drama of Rosa's search for answers, her visit to the crash scene, her questions about the accident.
This Arts Club production is, on the main, a very good piece of work. But the director does not inject the kind of energy a show like this demands. "Spamalot" is so silly and over-the-top, the production needs a tone to match it. This one plods along.
The bulk of "Kim's Convenience" features Appa's eccentric opinions and the joke of his heavily accented English. It is easy comedy and carries the play nowhere. Appa uses his martial arts training to torture a potential boyfriend into proposing marriage to his daughter, Janet. He forces them to kiss and gets angry when they kiss too much. This is supposed to be hilarious.