Spring arts preview 2018 theatre critics' picks: Strong roster ups the Cancon

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      It’s spring, and Vancouver’s theatre creators are in full bud. I didn’t go into this exercise with any Cancon agenda, but it just so happens that all the shows I’ve highlighted are by Canadian playwrights, and three-quarters of them are world premieres by local writers.

      I couldn’t fit everything I wanted to into this preview. In March, head to the Gateway for Ruby Slippers Theatre’s I Lost My Husband, Leanna Brodie’s translation of Catherine Léger’s hilarious play about a woman who loses her spouse in a bar bet. Plan a trip to West Vancouver in May to see Daniel MacIvor’s The Best Brothers at the Kay Meek Centre. And virtually everything in the Cultch’s season is exciting, kicking off in March with The After After Party, a show whose debut at the 2016 Fringe made me laugh so hard that I ached for days.

      And you still have a couple of weeks to catch director Lois Anderson’s stunning production of Fun Home at the Arts Club; with its emotional complexity and pitch-perfect casting and staging, it’s one of the very best shows of the current season.


      Forget About Tomorrow

      On the Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre from March 7 to 25

      When Jill Daum’s husband, actor and Spirit of the West singer John Mann, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, Daum started writing this play based on their experiences. Mann not only encouraged her; he wrote two songs for the show.

      The Draw: Daum’s contributions to the Mom’s the Word plays demonstrate her heart and humour. And those two songs.

      Target Audience: People who need hope in devastating circumstances.

      Peter Anderson takes centre stage in Nicolas Billon's thriller Butcher.


      At the Cultch’s Historic Theatre from March 21 to 31

      Playwright Nicolas Billon’s thriller—in which a war criminal reckons with one of his victims, at times using a Slavic-like language created especially for this play—has caused a stir in productions throughout Canada. This is Vancouver’s first chance to see it.

      The Draw: The writing. In his other plays, including Iceland, Billon has shown a gift for dramatic and emotional complexity.

      Target Audience: The brave: apparently, you need a strong stomach for this one.


      Me and You

      On the Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre from April 12 to May 6

      Melody Anderson’s mask work has graced our stages for decades (and, in shows like The Number 14, toured the world). Now Anderson turns her hand to writing with this story of two sisters who don’t always see eye to eye.

      The Draw: The visuals—Anderson’s masks help define the sisters over the ages—and the actors: Patti Allan and Lois Anderson are skilled physical performers with wicked comic chops.

      Target Audience: Anyone who’s ever clashed with a sibling—or who’s looked in the mirror and wondered whose aging face that is.


      Nine Dragons

      At the Gateway Theatre from April 13 to 21

      Gateway artistic director Jovanni Sy has penned a murder mystery set in colonial Hong Kong in the early 20th century. This coproduction with Vertigo Theatre and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre has already been seen in Calgary, where reviewers praised its “whip-smart” script and gorgeous design.

      The Draw: Style and intrigue.

      Target Audience: Mystery lovers, time travellers, adventure seekers.


      The Explanation

      At the Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab from April 18 to 29

      Two straight men fall in love in James Fagan Tait’s exploration of the fluidity of gender and sexual identity. Bonus: choreography by Noam Gagnon.

      The Draw: The premise and the talent: it’s too long since we’ve seen a new work from Tait, who has a knack for playful theatricality. And Kevin MacDonald and Evan Frayne are consistently compelling performers.

      Target Audience: Gays, straights, bi-curious—the whole spectrum.



      At the Russian Hall from May 10 to 27

      ITSAZOO brings us the Vancouver premiere of David James Brock’s award-winning script about a Canadian soldier returning home with a head injury at the height of the Afghan war. Her already fraught home life is shaken up by a visit from a war buddy.

      The Draw: The company. ITSAZOO has earned a reputation for solid productions of gritty, thought-provoking works.

      Target Audience: Are you tough enough? The “immersive” venue—the Russian Hall’s basement—carries a warning for the claustrophobic.


      Les Filles du Roi (The King’s Daughters)

      At the York Theatre from May 17 to 27

      Children of God creator Corey Payette teams up with Julie McIsaac for this trilingual—English, French, and Kanien’kéha (Mohawk)—musical set in the 17th century about two Mohawk siblings and their relationship with a young French girl who has been sent over to New France as a settler bride.

      The Draw: History.

      Target Audience: People who want more than the colonizer’s perspective.


      C’mon, Angie!

      At the Firehall Arts Centre from June 1 to 9

      The latest offering in Touchstone Theatre’s “Flying Start” series sees emerging playwright Amy Lee Lavoie tackling issues of consent in a morning-after two-hander.

      The Draw: Relevance.

      Target Audience: The sexually active.