Fall arts preview: Theatre critics' picks: Sex, lies, death, and silicone take the stage

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      Critics’ picks

      In the relationship between theatregoer and theatre company, nothing says commitment quite like cash. If you want to see more theatre but find it hard to carve out the time, you’ll find it easier if you’ve already paid for a subscription, and those subscriptions help to create a solid financial base for the company.

      This year, the Arts Club is offering an impressive total of 16 productions in its three venues, including Next to Normal, Circle Mirror Transformation, and The Penelopiad, which are all featured below. And the Cultch goes the Arts Club one better, presenting 17 productions in various disciplines. The Cultch’s theatrical offerings include the promising True Love Lies and The Silicone Diaries.

      The rich upcoming season also offers plenty to cherry pick from.

      Next to Normal (To October 9 at the Arts Club’s Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage)
      This Pulitzer Prize–winning musical examines love and damage in a family where the mom’s bipolar disorder is getting worse.
      The Draw: Intensity. Ben Brantley, critic for the New York Times, said that Next to Normal isn’t a feel-good musical, it’s a “feel-everything musical”, and he praised Tom Kitt’s “surging tidal score”.
      Target Audience: People from dysfunctional backgrounds. (Yes, that is a large demographic.)

      True Love Lies (September 22 to October 1 in the Historic Theatre at the Cultch)
      In the latest play from Edmonton’s Brad Fraser, produced here by Touchstone Theatre, teenage Madison applies for a job at a restaurant, only to discover that the owner, David, used to have sex with her father.
      The Draw: Provocation.
      Target Audience: Are you offended and/or intrigued by a story in which a girl is attracted to a guy because he penetrated her daddy? See ya there.

      Ride the Cyclone (September 28 to October 15 at the Arts Club’s Revue Stage)
      In this new musical from Victoria’s Atomic Vaudeville, members of a teen choir from Uranium, Saskatchewan, perish on an amusement-park ride, then they sing about it.
      The Draw: Writer Jacob Richmond (Legoland) is hilariously twisted.
      Target Audience: Refugees from Glee.

      Circle Mirror Transform-ation (September 28 to October 22 at the Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage)
      In Annie Baker’s script, which is being presented here by the Arts Club, five people come together in an under-enrolled acting class in a small Vermont town. Pretending to be trees, they learn more about one another than they expected to.
      The Draw: Director Nicola Cavendish. Who has had a warmer romance with the theatre?
      Target Audience: You. Because you’re at least flirting with the theatre or you wouldn’t be reading this.

      KISMET one to one hundred (October 14 to 22 at Presentation House Theatre)
      Produced by The Chop Theatre, this funny, moving show about destiny and chaos includes everything from an old woman’s love story to a little boy’s grief over the death of his puppy. Originally mounted last year, KISMET earned its raves.
      The Draw: Anita Rochon’s witty, physical direction is as welcome as a friend’s touch.
      Target Audience: The innocent, no matter how well their innocence is hidden.

      The Penelopiad (October 26 to November 20 at the Arts Club’s Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage)
      In Margaret Atwood’s stage adaptation of her 2005 novella, Penelope sets the mythical record straight about what really happened when Odysseus was away on a working holiday.
      The Draw: Atwood. What? You’re waiting for a smarter playwright?
      Target Audience: The classics-loving subset of the riot grrrls.

      The Russian Play and Mexico City (November 17 to 26 at Presentation House Theatre)
      Produced by Halifax’s 2b Theatre Company, this pair of one-acts by Hannah Moscovitch was one of the best offerings to hit Vancouver in 2010. In Mexico City, an uptight Canadian couple comes apart at the seams when confronted with the surreal depths of Mexican culture. And The Russian Play turns the stereotypes of Russian melancholy inside out.
      The Draw: Actor Colombe Demers. She’ll knock your socks off in The Russian Play.
      Target Audience: Fans of acting shmacting and writing shmiting.

      All the Way Home (January 10 to 14 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre)
      This one’s got provenance. In association with the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company, the Electric Company is mounting Tad Mosel’s 1961 play, which is based on James Agee’s autobiographical novel about his father’s sudden passing: A Death in the Family.
      The Draw: Intriguing venue. An audience of 150 will join the actors on the stage of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
      Target Audience: It’s about grief. It’s for the brave.

      Red (January 19 to February 4 at the Playhouse)
      In John Logan’s award-laden script, colour-field abstractionist Mark Rothko has accepted an invitation to paint a series of canvases for the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York’s Seagram’s Building. His assistant, Ken, calls it “the flashiest commission since the Sistine Chapel”.
      The Draw: Serious debates on the properties of colour and the relationship of art to commerce.
      Target Audience: People who have eyes worth using.

      The Silicone Diaries (February 14 to 25 in the Historic Theatre at the Cultch)
      Transsexual artist Nina Arsenault makes her body her palette in this autobiographical show about a boy from an Ontario trailer park who sets out to transform himself into his ideal of beauty: a female store mannequin.
      The Draw: Arsenault delivers one hell of a complicated look in the mirror.
      Target audience: Everybody from gawkers to cognoscenti crowded to see this Buddies in Bad Times offering when it premiered in Toronto in 2009.