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.

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