Sunday, September 24, 2006

New York, 2004: The Mystery Of The Charity Of Joan Of Arc

Paul Wagler sends me a link to this 2004 revival of a 1910 show with some real contemporary interest. I'd better read it: Paul's batting 1.000, having been the one to bring me the script of SHADOWLANDS back in the early nineties!

The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc
by Charles Péguy, translated by Julian Green

May 12 - Jun 5, 2004
Produced by the Target Margin Theater at the Here Arts Center, New York

A CurtainUp Review
by Les Gutman

"He who allows things to be done is like him who orders them to be done.
It is all one. It is worse than him who does them. Because he who does shows
courage, at least, in doing. He who commits a crime has at least the courage
to commit it.And when you allow the crime to be committed, you have the
same crime, and cowardice to boot." Jeannette

Kierkegaard, to whom Charles Péguy no doubt owed some debt, said that the self is "a relation which relates itself to itself". In The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc, we find a young Joan of Arc (Sophia Skiles) engaged in an existential struggle, with her self, her faith and the relation between the two. These play out alone, in conversation with a young, less thought-burdened contemporary, Hauviette (Jerusha Klemperer), and in a dialectic with a holy woman, Madame Gervaise (Daphne Gaines). They are, we are asked to believe at least, the tribulations of Joan of Arc, the foundations for the more familiar religious figure to come.

Péguy's lyrical work, here in a largely unfussy translation by Julian Green, overflows with words as it compresses Joan's spiritual anxiety into an economical but full seventy minutes. (Written almost a century ago, this is the play's American premiere.) David Herksovits wisely focuses the three fine actors on the language. Those familiar with the playful aesthetic which usually infuses his work may be surprised to discover it is largely absent here.

Regardless of the extent to which one is bowled over by the play's religious aspects, the play's context couldn't raise questions of greater currency. For young Jeanette finds herself confronted by war, its effects and its seeming irreconcilability:
For every wounded man we happen to look after, for every child we feed, indefatigable war makes hundreds of wounded, of sick and homeless people, every day. All our efforts are in vain. War has more power than anything when it comes to making people suffer. Ah, a curse on war!

Those who kill lose their souls because they kill. And those who are killed lose their souls because they are killed.
The three women in this cast are up to the challenges presented. There is a genuineness in Sophia Skiles' Jeanette that filters her passion and anguish through the lens of a young woman, "different" no doubt, who is seeking her own inexplicable truths. Daphne Gaines is skillful in guiding her, yet neither character is permitted to convey the sort of earnestness that would quickly render the text overwrought. Jerusha Klemperer operates in a lighter vein, with flashes of contemporary sensibilities, but her counterpoint is never jolting.

Lenore Doxsee has a large canvas in Here's mainstage theater. She has chosen to suggest both the vastness of the world and the intimacy of one's personal view of it in a particularly striking way. A spinning wheel becomes the focal point. Mark Barton's lighting, mostly achieved indirectly, is exceptionally supportive, and David Zinn's costumes also work quite well in establishing the characters.


"David Herskovits' Target Margin Theater... has revived a mock-medieval French play from 1910, and there's not a surplus gadget to be seen - only a peaceful, low-key environment, a single raked platform, and whatever magic the three actresses' voices can coax from the text... Herskovits' simple act of aesthetic faith has powerful resonances in a theater, and a world, hooked on every kind of overindulgence." The Village Voice

"The holy stillness of this Target Margin Theater production, masterfully evoked by director David Herskovits and his excellent ensemble, encourages the unhurried contemplation of this mysterious little play... Translated by Julian Green, the writing accumulates in gradually shifting repetitions that take on incantatory power." Newsday

Saturday, September 23, 2006

CONFESSIONS: Submissions? Ideas?

Three weeks hence (Oct 12-14), I'll be doing CONFESSIONS at Pacific Theatre. (No, I'm not a priest...) (Or a Catholic...) Three evenings of readings interspersed with songs, very loose. Like CHRISTMAS PRESENCE, but without the Christmas. Like PASSION, a couple years ago, or TESTIMONY this spring.

This year's theme, any sort of connotation to CONFESSIONS that comes to mind. Confessions of sin, weakness, embarassment, secrets, failure, flaw, humanity or any other sort of crime. Or confessions of faith. Or about the confessional. Or whatever. God stuff's good. Doesn't necessarily have to be. A few years ago, I wrote my (per)version of the "Paul Is Dead" hoax, something along the lines of "John Is Born Again" - documents his conversion through the lyrics of various Beatles songs, how he evangelized other members of the band: I want to sandwich it in between a gospel-tinged "Let It Be" (a la Aretha Franklin), follow it up with "The Word," something like that. So you can see, the theme ain't all that narrow.

Anybody got anything I could read? Essay, story, novel excerpt, play scene, poetry, joke, you name it. Something you've written, or are going to write? Or something you've read that somebody else wrote? Or seen in a movie or play? Even just a short, memorable quote to do with confession. Anything jazzy in St Augustine? Email me your ideas:

I'm thinking some Anne Lamott, though I haven't thought about what specific piece yet. Frederick Buechner's sure to have stuff. I've got a couple pieces marked in Joyful Noise, Rick Moody and Darcey Steinke's fabulous collection of essays. Oh, there's a great monologue in "A Thousand Clowns" about this guy going down the street apologizing to total strangers - that would fit! Wouldn't Woody Allen have something self-deprecating in one of his books or films? That ring a bell with anybody?

Let me know if anything comes to mind. And don't be shy about offering your own pieces.

Do my work for me.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Philadelphia: "A Prayer For Owen Meany"

Probably too big a cast for PT, but I sure do love the novel. Hmmm...

A Prayer for Owen Meany
Sep 14 - Oct 15
A Novel by John Irving
Adapted by Simon Bent
Directed by Terrence J. Nolen
On the Haas Stage, Arden Theatre, Philadelphia
The acclaimed adaptation of John Irving’s beloved novel

Arden Theatre Company will kick off the 2006/2007 season with the Philadelphia premiere of A Prayer for Owen Meany, adapted from the beloved, bestselling novel by celebrated author John Irving (The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules). Owen Meany is an unusually small child with a striking voice who considers himself an instrument of God. When he accidentally kills his friend’s mother in 1950s New Hampshire, the two boys are forever linked as they search for truth in a provocative dark comedy of friendship, faith and destiny. Published in 1989, the novel A Prayer for Owen Meany became an international phenomenon among readers and critics, hailed by Time as “vintage Irving… a boisterous cast, a spirited story” and “roomy, intelligent, exhilarating… Dickensian in scope” by the Los Angeles Times Book Review. After the play’s premiere at the Royal National Theatre in London, the Evening Standard raved: “Simon Bent's adaptation is a triumph of elegant compression..[a] beautiful recreation for the stage of John Irving's epic American novel.” The Arden’s production features some of Philadelphia’s most distinguished actors, including Ian Merrill Peakes, Scott Greer, Mary Martello, Anthony Lawton, Paul L. Nolan, Karen Peakes, Catharine K. Slusar and Maureen Torsney-Weir. Doug Hara—seen on Broadway in “The Boys of Winter” and “Metamorphoses”—will bring to life the indelible character of Owen Meany. The show is directed by Arden Theatre Company’s Producing Artistic Director and co-founder, Terrence J. Nolen.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Goode, Chiarelli, Rowe at HITCHHIKER L.A. Opening

Los Angeles Premiere

Jason Goode is a Regent alum who's been turning his attention to stage (you may have seen him on our stage in the Stones Throw production of MATCH a couple seasons back) and, even more, to film. Last year our recently-departed and much-missed Gillian Rowe worked as AD (Assistant Director, dontcha know) and co-storyboard artist on Jason's short film HITCHHIKER, which starred Gina Chiarelli.

The film premiered at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival on September 12th and was very well received, with Gina, Gillian and Jason all in attendance. Wish I could have been there!

HITCHIKER will make its Canadian debut at the Calgary International Film Festival on September 28th, 6:30pm at the Globe Theatre.

ANON NO MORE! Kokotailo, Chy, Plitt Honoured

You saw Lori Kokotailo as the youngest daughter in HUNGRY SEASON, as the actress Kate Terry in A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR, and playing Beatrice in the Stones Throw / Emerging Artist showcase production LESS ADO ABOUT NOTHING. The girl's got range! And Chy was marvelous as Martha in HUNGRY SEASON, as the farm wife in CHICKENS, her long history at Pacific Theatre going right back to INTO AN EMPTY ROOM and both stagings of DREAMS OF KINGS & CARPENTERS.

Both Lori and Chy have been nominated as Best Actress for comic performances in locally-lensed short films, SUPER-ANON and SARCASM-ANON respectively. SUPER-ANON (which won a Significant Achievement Award for Ensemble Acting and the Best Film Award in the REEL FAST 48 Hour Film Festival) recieved two other nominations as well at the CANWEST COMEDY FEST, for Best Film and Best Actor (Terry Hayman). Additional information on SUPER-ANON is available at

And here's one that slipped by in the dog days of summer: SUPER-ANON director Steve Plitt won huge accolades at the recent International Christian Visual Media Conference in Denver, for THE FANNY CROSBY STORY, a docudrama he wrote and directed about the blind hymn writer who penned more than ten thousand hymns. ("Tell them what he won, Ron...")

Silver crown award for Best Drama under $250K
Silver crown award for Best Screenplay
Gold crown award for Best Documentary over $50K
Gold crown award for Best Picture

Extraordinary! Congrats, Steve! Congrats all.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lori Kokotailo & Chy, Best Actress nominations!

Lori Kokotailo and Chy honoured at

You saw Lori as the youngest daughter in HUNGRY SEASON, as the actress Kate Terry in A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR, and playing Beatrice in the Stones Throw / Emerging Artist showcase production LESS ADO ABOUT NOTHING - the girl's got range! Chy was marvelous as Martha in HUNGRY SEASON, as the farm wife in CHICKENS, and her long history at Pacific Theatre goes right back to INTO AN EMPTY ROOM and both stagings of DREAMS OF KINGS & CARPENTERS.

Both Lori and Chy have been nominated as Best Actress for comic performances in locally-lensed short films, SUPER-ANON and SARCASM-ANON respectively. SUPER-ANON (which won a Significant Achievement Award for Ensemble Acting and the Best Film Award in the REEL FAST 48 Hour Film Festival) recieved two other nominations as well at the CANWEST COMEDY FEST, for Best Film and Best Actor (Terry Hayman). Additional information on SUPER-ANON is available at


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Fringe: Maria Denholme's "Moxie"

Yup, she's got moxie alright. Maria is Pacific Theatre's uber-volunteer. From serving on our board of directors to catering our opening night receptions to stage managing shows to acting as PT cheerleader anywhere and everywhere (you should see her with a pom pom!), Maria's done it all at Pacific Theatre. (Well, you've never seen her onstage. Nor will you. She flat out refuses.)

Anyhow, she's stage managing a Fringe show you may want to check out;

MOXIE: A Comedy
by Jason Patrick Rothery
Join us for this macabre comedic fable. Two inmates try to keep from being eaten alive in a morally bankrupt future prison system. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, no matter how often you do the right thing, you still end up as next morning's breakfast. Moxie is a ruthless social satire addressing our cutthroat corporate culture; a dystopian absurdist comedy about the prisons we're born into, and those we create for ourselves. Warning! Coarse Language, Questionable Morals, and Adult Subject Matter. You won't want to miss this.
Waterfront Theatre Sept 7 – 17, 2006
Thursday Sept 7 7:00pm
Saturday Sept 9 11:15pm
Sunday Sept 10 1:15pm
Wednesday Sept 13 8:15pm
Saturday Sept 16 7:00pm
Sunday Sept 17 5:00pm

Other Fringe shows are blurbed elsewhere in the PT blog, and over at the Soul Food Vancouver blog

Thursday, September 07, 2006

New York: "Creation: A Clown Show!"

Doesn't this look swell? Wonder if this guy travels...

God Speaks, and a Clown Answers, in 'Creation: A Clown Show!"
New York Times review by Anita Gates, August 11 2006

Two things could but shouldn’t hold adults back from seeing “Creation: A Clown Show!,” which opened last night at Theater Five. While the events take place during the seven days in which the Bible says God created the world, there is nothing narrowly religious about it. Evolutionists who welcome metaphor will be amused. And though the word “clown” is in the title, it doesn’t mean Ringling Brothers style.

The only circuslike element of Lucas Caleb Rooney’s wardrobe is a red rubber nose. But as an accessory to his patched jacket, ragged shorts, bow tie, horizontally striped red knee socks and the long-stemmed daisy in his lapel, it doesn’t really stand out.

Mr. Rooney plays a little boy named Timmy who stumbles into a situation in which he has to act out the Creation as instructed by the booming offstage voice of God (Samuel Stricklen). It’s tough. How do you divide the light from the darkness? And what the heck is a firmament?

It gets tougher and funnier. On the fifth day God creates life in the seas. Timmy pretends to be a whale and ends up doing a condensed version of “Moby-Dick.” The real trouble comes later in the fifth day when God creates “winged fowl.” The act becomes literally gooey when Timmy releases what he thinks is a little bird into the air. (Oops, it was a raw egg.) When he hatches a dozen adorable yellow marshmallow Peeps, things get even uglier for Timmy, who disobeys God and ends up screaming, “I hate myself!”

Mr. Rooney has been compared to Red Skelton, and he does exhibit Skelton’s combination of goofiness and heartwarming sweetness. But his innocence is even more childlike. Near the beginning, when Timmy settles into the audience thinking he is going to see a show rather than be one, Mr. Rooney, directed by Orlando Pabotoy (with whom he conceived the production), seems more like Will Ferrell in the movie “Elf.”

But his childlike post-Creation persona is all his own, especially when he puts his message in perspective with a poignant final visual. However it got here, he demonstrates, life on earth was a swell idea. It would be the crime of all crimes to destroy it.

“Creation: A Clown Show!” continues through Sept. 10 at Theater Five, 311 West 43rd Street, Clinton, (212) 868-4444.

(Thanks, Diane!)

Ian Farthing tours with "Shear Madness"

If you know Pacific Theatre you know Ian Farthing. You've seen him in PT shows like THE FOREIGNER, LETTICE & LOVAGE and THE CLEARING, and in THE GLASS MENAGERIE, an Equity Co-op he produced as a guest production in our 2003/2004 season. He also heads up our Lit Squad, overseeing the reading of new plays that come our way. Also one of my Artistic Advisors to the board. Heck, Ian is Pacific Theatre! (Now, Ron. You're getting carried away again...)

Anyhow, Ian also works a lot around town - Arts Club, Mad Duck, etc. - and he's about to go into rehearsals for the Arts Club touring production of the inventive, entertaining and just-plain-silly SHEAR MADNESS. Kind of cool. Years ago, Paul Muir brought the script to our attention as a possible PT side-light, but rights were tricky, etc, etc. Anyhow, it's fun to see a PT stamp on the show, now that it's found a BC home!

by Marilyn Abrams and Bruce Jordan
Based on Scherenschnitt, by Paul Portner

A hilarious whodunit

It’s like Clue in a hair salon! The longest-running non-musical play in American history, Shear Madness is the perfect whodunit. With the audience’s investigative and observational powers to aid them, two undercover cops and an outrageous cast of characters put on a different mystery every night. It’s the funniest show you’ll see this year.

“A finely timed machine of comedy” ~ Peter Birnie, Vancouver Sun

“It's a helluva lot of fun” ~ Jerry Wasserman, The Province

“It’s the funniest, fastest couple of hours you'll spend laughing” ~ Jo Ledingham, Vancouver Courier


North Vancouver
Capilano College Performing Arts Theatre
• 604.990.7810
Oct. 3 – 4, 2006

Shadbolt Centre for the Arts
• 604.205.3000
Oct. 5 – 7, 2006

Mary Winspear Centre at Sanscha
• 250.656.0275
Oct. 9 – 10, 2006

Cowichan Theatre
• 250.748.7529
Oct. 11, 2006

West Vancouver
Kay Meek Centre
• 604.913.3634
Oct. 12, 2006

Surrey Arts Centre
• 604.501.5566
Oct. 13 – 28, 2006

Evergreen Cultural Centre
• 604.927.6555
Oct. 31 – Nov. 4, 2006

Maple Ridge
The ACT Maple Ridge Arts Centre & Theatre
• 604.476.2787
Nov. 5 – 6, 2006

Clarke Foundation Theatre
• 604.820.3961
Nov. 7 – 8, 2006

Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre
• 250.549.SHOW (7469)
Nov. 11, 2006

Fringe: Frank Nickel "Caught In The Act!"

We've got some new folks at Pacific Theatre this fall, one of whom is Frank Nickel. He's our new production manager, also tackling whatever other areas he darn well feels like. He'll be producing our SIDE SHOW: NIGHT AT THE IMPROV, working with Dan Amos on financial management, helping our computers stay healthy and all kinds of good stuff.

Fact is, the boy's also an actor! An SFU grad and founding member of Genus Theatre. Who happen to have a wild and wacky show (utterly without redeeming social value, I'm hoping) in The Fringe.

Here's their data. Check it out!


Genus Proudly Presents our Fringe Festival debut...

Have you ever...

Been the victim of a particularly embarrassing restaurant birthday song?

Had to talk your way out of getting arrested?

Been brutally snubbed by a yuppy hostess at a dinner party?

Witnessed a horrible accident and just had to stay and see how it all
turned out?

If so, this is the show for you!

Genus Theatre Company invites its faithful following to enjoy the
spectacle as it looses its Fringe Fest virginity with its fifth
original production. Caught in the Act explores the lurking
exhibitionist in us all. It is an examination and celebration of all
those moments where theatre and the pedestrian collide. Some of us
will do whatever it takes to get noticed. Caught in the Act presents
a sometimes hilarious, often uncomfortable voyeuristic glimpse in the
mirror. Be sure to catch this showcase of all of life's long running,
never billed, but always entertaining performances.

Georgia Straight Stage 4 - The Waterfront Theatre
Fri. Sep 8, 11:00 PM
Sat. Sep 9, 9:00 PM
Tue. Sep 12, 5:15 PM
Wed. Sep 13, 10:15 PM
Fri. Sep 15, 5:00 PM
Sun. Sep 17, 9:00 PM

Tickets for the Vancouver Fringe are $10 and can be purchased by
contacting Festival Box Office by phoning 604-257-0366, online at, or at the door on the day of the show.

For more details or to view a trailer for the show visit our website
Want to know what Victoria Fringe audience members have been saying
about Caught in the Act? Read on!

"Hilarious, bizarre, extravagant and uniquely able to tap into my funny

"I laughed - hard, so hard in fact that I cried - more than once!
They're quirky, clever and downright frivolous."

"I must put this show in my top five. The comedy is sharp, the writing
is tight and the film pieces are a great way of fleshing out the

To read more audience reviews visit and click
on the "CRAIG ONLINE" newspaper icon in the green sidebar.

We hope you can join us for this newest Genus concoction.
Good times and laughter be with you.

Genus Theatre

Monday, September 04, 2006

Kirsten Waldschmidt, Podcast Preacher

Actor / designer / director / publicist / great human being Steve Waldschmidt departed from Pacific Theatre this summer (okay, scratch the part about "great human being") with the excuse that his wife Kirsten had landed her dream job, pastoring at a Covenant church in Strathmore, Alberta.

I guess he was telling the truth. We have corroborating evidence.

My wife's mom is also a Covenanter. (Sounds vaguely cult-like, doesn't it? Like an evangelical version of the Freemasons or something, people meeting under cover of night to sign death pacts in blood, or possibly grape juice. Actually, they're just a bunch of nice Swedes and Germans who used to be Lutherans, only they wanted to have Bible studies in their living rooms and apparently that was a problem. Something like that. Over such controversies are schisms spawned.) Anyhow, Grandma Eunice sent us a copy of the latest Covenant Companion, partly because there's a regular column on film and she knows her son-in-law is kind of obsessed, and partly because there's an article that mentions... Kirsten Waldschmidt!

Heidi Griepp has a regular "Webwatch" column in the aforementioned periodical, and in August she focused on "Podcasting, Wi-Fi, and the Church: How to plug in to audio resources on the Web." She does a survey of Covenant churches that offer podcasts, and she leads off her list with Hope Community Covenant Church, in noplace other than Strathmore Alberta!

"Hope Community Covenant Church in Strathmore, Alberta, had my favorite sermon, from Kirsten Waldschmidt. The church has a well-designed and easy-to-explore website. You can find their podcast on their homepage and on iTunes."

Unfortunately, a quick trip to the HopeComCovenChu site indicates that they only archive the previous month's sermons, so the kudoed Kirstencast is not to be had. And while iTunes features a surfeit of Hope Community Church podcasts, and even one from a Hope Covenant Church, none appear to issue forth from Strathmore, or feature the dulcet tones of Ms Waldschmidt. Sigh. If you can't trust The Covenant Companion, who can you trust?

So maybe it's all a big fraud after all. Maybe Steve had other reasons for fleeing Pacific Theatre...

Fringe: Frangione Directs "64 And No More Lies"

A note from Lucia Frangione about a one-woman-show she's directing in the Fringe Festival, which just happens to be performed at the Pacific Theatre space...

64 And No More Lies

Lucia writes; "This show is written and performed by a lovely woman in her sixties: Susan Freedman. I think she's a witty writer and stabs down a day in the life of a age demographic not often explored. She's toured two previous shows at the Fringes across Canada and the States and has been pick of the fringe a few times. It's a charming little one woman show, great to bring Mom to in particular! "More laughs about therapy, family, diets, and facing the truth, in the third of Susan's acclaimed comedies about growing older and growing up.""

Fri. Sept 8, 9:30pm
Sun Sept 10, 7pm
Tues Sept 12, 8:30pm
Wed. Sept 13, 10:15pm
Sat. Sept. 16, 2:30pm
Sun Sept 17, 1:45pm

Fringe: "Diary of Adam & Eve" with Damon Calderwood

This FRINGE note just in from Damon Calderwood, who was THE ELEPHANT MAN in the Five Bob Equity Co-op production on the PT stage last fall (and a long-time PT artist). He writes...

"I'm about to play the world's first man in a wonderfully charming musical called The Diary of Adam and Eve. I hope you can come see it--it's about 45 minutes long, and it was written by the same guys that wrote my favorite musical of all time...Fiddler on the Roof. I hope you can see this whimsical musical, and I look forward to hearing from you. (no ribbing, please...I'm still sore)."

Little Apple Productions Equity Co-op's
Carousel Theatre (1411 Cartwright Street, Granville Island--across from the Waterfront Theatre)
Thu Sep 7, 7pm
Sat Sep 9, 4:30pm
Sun Sep 10, 2:45pm
Mon Sep 1, 7pm
Wed Sep 13, 7pm
Thu Sep 14, 7:45pm
Fri Sep 15, 7pm
Sat Sep 16, 4:30pm
Sun Sep 17, 4:30pm
Tickets: 604 257-0366 / 1 888 777-0366 /
Or get them at the door--there are about 60 seats for each show.

First produced on Broadway in 1966, starring Alan Alda and Barbara Harris, this charming and successful musical was written by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, of Fiddler on the Roof and She Loves Me fame. Based on the famous Mark Twain book, The Diaries of Adam and Eve, it follows the story of Adam and Eve from creation through to their eviction from the garden of Eden and beyond-all with a humorous yet gentle look at male/female relationships and differences.

Adam: Damon Calderwood
Eve: Shawna Parry
Snake: Leon Willey

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sep 5-16: "Peer Gynt" with Craig Erickson, Donald Adams

Blackbird Theatre

Henrik Ibsen, translated/adapted by Errol Durbach
Vancouver East Cultural Centre
Pay-what-you-can preview Sep 5, runs Sep 6–16

Here's what Craig Erickson says: "Big, theatrical, with Kierkegarde, trolls and strange fallen angels. Excellent translation of Ibsen's classic."

You saw Craig in a memorable turn on the PT stage when he played the younger preacher in GOD'S MAN IN TEXAS a couple seasons back, and most recently in this spring's PRODIGAL SON. You'll see him opposite Alexa Dubreuil in our Canadian premiere of Craig Wright's edgy GRACE next March. On other stages, he got a Jessie nod for his work in Mad Duck's JULIUS CAESAR, and did a fine turn as Stanley in a handsome production of STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE by Chemainus Theatre, our sister company on Vancouver Island.

Right now Craig is playing the young version of the title character, with Donald Adams (his prodigal father in the aforementioned PRODIGAL SON) as the not-quite-as-young-but-I'm-sure-still-youthful-manly-and-virile version of that same character, in Blackbird Theatre's PEER GYNT. The one-year-old company aims to cast Vancouver's best actors in classics of the theatrical repertoire: an exquisite debut production last fall of Schiller's little-seen MARY STUART was followed by Harold Pinter's THE BIRTHDAY PARTY featuring with our own Anthony Ingram as the not-so-lucky birthday boy (great photos of both productions at the Blackbird website).

Here's what the 'birds say about their latest: "Ibsen’s Peer Gynt is a comic and dramatic feast for the mind and heart, a great folk epic with a large cast of characters, and a fantastic voyage around and through to the centre of man’s being. Peer’s picaresque adventures have enchanted audiences for more than a century. Blackbird Theatre presents the professional Vancouver premiere of a brilliant new translation and adaptation by Errol Durbach that raises questions about modern life. Come discover a Peer Gynt for the new millennium."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Wicker Man, Prodigal Son, Daisy, Bard

Moonlighter that I am, I just finished reviewing Neil LaBute's THE WICKER MAN for Christianity Today Movies, a movie that's neither as bad as critics say it is nor as good as it could have been. I mention that here only because one of the chief pleasures of seeing the film was a brief glimpse of Christine Willes.

Christine does lovely work in the film: as briefly as she's on camera, she establishes a real screen presence. When the policeman arrives on Summersisle - Bowen Island, if I'm not mistaken - he first meets three women and asks them about the missing child. Christine is one of them, Sister Violet. You'll recognize her if you saw PRODIGAL SON at Pacific Theatre this spring, in which she played the mother.

I consider Christine's performance in that show one of the absolute finest on our stage in 22 seasons. Extraordinary commitment, embodying such a wide span of age, funny, heart-breaking, true. We've talked about maybe doing DRIVING MISS DAISY, with Christine opposite Tom Pickett. Wouldn't that be something to experience! In our intimate space? Who knows, maybe in 2007-2008...

By the way, there are still a handful of performances of TROILUS & CRESSIDA at Bard On The Beach, a production which thrilled me, and which has stayed vividly in my mind all summer. It transposes the Trojan Wars to the American Civil War to great effect: I was reminded that there are places in the South that linguists claim most closely resemble the way the English language was spoken in Elizabethan England, and hearing the way Shakespeare's language sings when played south of the Mason-Dixon line, I can't help but think there's something to that.

At any rate, Tom Pickett is remarkable in T&C, with a kind of physical extension I've never before seen him have the opportunity to explore. It's a gutsy, detailed, virtuoso turn: both he and Alan Gray take the premise and make something astonishing of it, the standouts in a very strong cast. (Tom Pickett has played in MASTER HAROLD... & THE BOYS, TENT MEETING, PLAYLAND, HOSPITALITY SUITE and SHADOWLANDS at Pacific Theatre, as well as various roles at many other Vancouver area theatres.)

Also at Bard, a very effective MEASURE FOR MEASURE in a WW2-ish Italian fascist setting. Karen Rae and Kyle Rideout are wonderful as Isabella and her brother, in another very strong cast. Karen and Kyle were together in HALO, and you've also seen Kyle on the PT stage in BEGGARS AT THE WATERS OF IMMORTALITY (Anthony Ingram's Yeats triple-feature) and THE FARNDALE CHRISTMAS CAROL, for which he snagged a Jessie.

"The Nibroc Trilogy" by Arlene Hutton

Remember Krista Knutsen and Adam Bergquist, and the marvelous work they did for director Angela Konrad in LAST TRAIN TO NIBROC? Colin Thomas wrote (and I paraphrase) "A year ago, they were Pacific Theatre apprentices: this year, they look a lot like stars." And I could only agree.

Turns out that play is only the first installment in a trilogy of plays about those same two characters. Reading about the complete cycle in IMAGE Journal's "Update" email, the gears begin to turn...

Arlene Hutton’s Nibroc Trilogy

Arlene Hutton is a playwright who knows how to leave her characters some breathing room. Author of the acclaimed plays As it is in Heaven and the three installments of the Nibroc Trilogy—Last Train to Nibroc (2000), See Rock City (2005), and Gulf View Drive, premiering next weekend in Los Angeles—Hutton deals in stories that peer into the delicate intertwining of relationships, examining without prying them apart. Her secret? Developing characters who speak for themselves—not as the playwright’s mouthpiece. The result is an entrance into the lives of real people, full-bodied and refreshingly free of caricature.

Audiences will have the unprecedented chance to see all three plays of the Nibroc Trilogy, together for the first time in honor of Gulf View Drive's debut, at the Actor’s Co-op in L.A. on September 8. Nibroc tells the story of Raleigh and May, two young Kentuckians who fumble into love with each other after meeting on a train during WWII, then regroup to face the demons of their times—as well as some of their own.

A seasoned people watcher, Hutton is skilled at observing her characters manage the tectonic shifts of their changing circumstances. Raleigh is forced out of the draft by his epilepsy and restricted from driving, but buoyed by his good nature, is bent on becoming a published writer. May, full of her own grit, trades her dream of mission work for marriage and a rare job as a school principal before losing it when the GIs come home from war. Over the course of the three plays, the young couple find outside demands and their own deepest desires, frustrations, and visions threatening the equilibrium of the marriage—but it’s also the stuff that creates it. In Gulf View Drive, as May and Raleigh face the scars of post-war America, their dialogue finds new rhythms as they search for, in Raleigh’s words, “The chance to do, I don’t know, something, maybe something important. Good.”

The Nibroc Trilogy is a romance and comedy, yes, but it’s also a sharp-eyed look at how a relationship takes root despite odds that feel familiar fifty years later. In the face of the daily threat of estrangement, Hutton reminds us of the possibility of communion.

Arlene Hutton is the Tennessee Williams Fellow in Playwriting for 2005-2006 and Glen Workshop teacher extraordinaire. All three plays of the Nibroc Trilogy will be presented in rotating repertory through Nov. 26. For times and ticket information, call 323.462.8460.