Spring arts preview 2019 theatre critics' picks: On-stage, naughty fun and unlikely love
Ah, spring! The snow will pass, the blossoms will bud, and exciting shows will proliferate on Vancouver stages. My picks include premieres and proven successes; as usual, I don’t have room for all the shows I’d like to mention.
So, in addition to those highlighted below, there are formally innovative shows: Reverberations at Presentation House, Ce qu’on attend de moi from Théâtre la Seizième, and Nassim at the Cultch all promise to shake up the usual relationships between audience, performer, and script.
Women writers are getting plenty of stage time this spring, and the coming months will see the return of some excellent feminist shows from the recent past: my 2018 Fringe favourite Poly Queer Love Ballad at the SUM Gallery, Hot Brown Honey at the York Theatre, and the latest Mom’s the Word: Nest ½ Empty at the Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage in June. If you missed any of these the first time around, go see them!
Shows for younger audiences include Carousel Theatre’s Salmon Girl and Iron Peggy at the Vancouver International Children’s Festival, both written by Indigenous women. And watch for more strong women in Glory, Tracey Power’s play about a 1930s female hockey team at the Gateway, and in Lois Anderson’s production of The Taming of the Shrew at Bard on the Beach. Anderson directed last year’s Lysistrata, one of the most unhinged shows I’ve ever seen at Bard; if anyone can make the problematic sexual politics of Shrew both meaningful and entertaining in 2019, it’s her.
Come From Away
At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre from March 5 to 10
Vancouver finally gets a chance to see one of the most successful Canadian musicals of the past decade, set in Gander, Newfoundland, the community that welcomed thousands of passengers whose flights were redirected after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Draw: Major, sustained buzz. Irene Sankoff and David Hein created this show at Toronto’s Sheridan College; it has gone on to dazzle audiences on Broadway and earn seven Tony nominations, among a host of other honours.
Target Audience: Proud Cancon supporters who got their tickets early.
At Gateway Theatre from March 14 to 23
Vancouver actor and playwright Meghan Gardiner’s new script explores revenge and redemption in a twisting story of two prisoners. The press materials promise #MeToo relevance.
The Draw: Provocation. Producing company SpeakEasy Theatre last got our attention with The Shipment, a formally daring and socially relevant production. The talent assembled for this show looks impressive as well.
Target Audience: Fans of Gardiner’s acting who want to see what else she has up her sleeve.
At the Firehall Arts Centre from March 14 to 23
Globe and Mail critic J. Kelly Nestruck calls this play “a nice, light romantic comedy about the inevitability of environmental destruction”. Ruby Slippers Theatre gives us the Vancouver premiere of Rosa Labordé’s much-praised story of the unlikely romance between an environmental activist and a corporate lawyer.
The Draw: If environmentalism and corporatism can find a harmonious relationship—even if it takes magic realism to make it happen—then maybe there’s hope for us.
Target Audience: The hopeful.
At the Vancity Culture Lab from March 19 to 30
My hands-down favourite show at the 2017 Fringe Festival was this wildly inventive adults-only puppet show from Mind of a Snail, which won both the Georgia Straight Critics’ Choice Award and the Cultchivating the Fringe Award. It follows an artist’s model down a figurative rabbit hole that’s at once familiar and deliriously trippy.
The Draw: Breathtaking originality—and naughty fun! You will never look at a toothbrush the same way again.
Target Audience: The fearlessly adventurous. Adults only!
The Orchard (After Chekhov)
At the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage from March 27 to April 2
Playwright Sarena Parmar transplants Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard to the 1970s Okanagan Valley, where a Punjabi Sikh family faces financial pressure to sell its beloved orchard. The play’s premiere at the Shaw Festival last year earned strong reviews.
The Draw: The creative team is loaded with talent. Jovanni Sy directs a 12-person cast that includes Laara Sadiq, Nadeem Phillip, and Adele Noronha.
Target Audience: Locavores who appreciate a new twist on the classics.
At the Cultch and various venues from May 22 to June 2
As the weather warms up and many local stages grow quieter, the rEvolver Festival explodes in and around the Cultch like a fizzy summer drink, showcasing unconventional, experimental work from mostly emerging artists, local and national. This year’s lineup includes two terrific shows from last year’s Fringe Festival—Fake Ghost Tours and Surveil.
The Draw: Variety. The festival promises storytelling, dance, sketch comedy, clown, puppetry, absurdism, and more. Bonus: there’s a barbecue.
Target Audience: Want a hot dog and a beer with your existentialism?