Spring arts 2013: A tiny world, a stampede queen, and a great Dane

Theatre critics' picks

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      From the pages of a pop-up book to the expanse of the mainstage at Bard on the Beach, Vancouver’s spring season runs the gamut in terms of scale.

      Within that range, some shows promise delight. The Icebook should be a visual treat; Never Shoot a Stampede Queen is based on an award-winning book of humour; and the absurd wit and infectious songs of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata are proven audience pleasers.

      The spring lineup also includes darker explorations of philosophy and ethics. Marcus Youssef will examine his relationship with his unstable mother in How Has My Love Affected You? at the Arts Club’s Revue Stage, and the unstable and mother-troubled Hamlet will pose his existential questions at Bard on the Beach. Mother Teresa Is Dead struggles with the ethics of altruism, while Extraction enters the ethical morass of the tar sands.

      The Icebook 

      (to March 2 at the Anderson Street Space, Granville Island)

      Creators Davy and Kristin McGuire use a pop-up picture book and rear-projected film to invite audiences into an intimate world of enchantment. Tiny projections of live actors move through paper houses and forests.

      The Draw: Watching the promotional video is like entering a dream on the Icebook website.

      Target Audience: Inner children and actual children should all appreciate this delicate offering in Boca del Lupo’s Micro Performance Series.

      Mother Teresa Is Dead 

      (March 1 to 23 at Pacific Theatre)

      In Helen Edmundson’s script, an Englishwoman named Jane abandons her husband and five-year-old son to work with street children in India. Then she falls apart. Who is more intent on exploiting her: her apparently racist husband, who arrives to take her home, or the charming founder of the refuge for street kids?

      The Draw: The talent. For this Pacific Theatre production, Evan Frayne is directing Julie McIsaac, Katharine Venour, Kayvon Kelly, and Sebastian Kroon.

      Target Audience: Liberals for whom self-awareness has become a curse.


      (March 5 to 9 at the Cultch’s Historic Theatre)

      This “documentary” production from Theatre Conspiracy, presented in Mandarin and English, looks at the hinge point between oil extraction in Alberta and China’s emergence as a superpower. The performers aren’t actors per se; they play themselves. The company includes a Dene cultural worker and a Vancouver software engineer who was born in Inner Mongolia.

      The Draw: What could be more important—or contentious—than the tar sands?

      Target Audience: The politically engaged and the politically curious.

      How Has My Love Affected You? 

      (March 6 to 23 at the Arts Club’s Revue Stage)

      In this Arts Club show, produced in association with Neworld Theatre, writer Marcus Youssef explores his conflicted relationship with his mother, Roleene, and his experience of her deteriorating mental health. The text is drawn in part from Roleene’s journals. Veda Hille wrote the music that Youssef’s son Zak will play as part of the show.

      The Draw: Youssef. He cowrote Peter Panties and Winners and Losers, both of which are terrific.

      Target Audience: Is your relationship with your mother just a teensy bit conflicted? Come on in.

      Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata 

      (April 24 to May 18 at the Arts Club’s Revue Stage)

      CBC Radio host Bill Richardson trolled Craigslist looking for material and he’s come up with some hilarious ads, including one for “a children’s guillotine…only used once”. Veda Hille’s songs are seductively inventive and full of life.

      The Draw: When it premiered last year, Craigslist was an instant hit, so this is a no-risk, all-fun evening at the theatre.

      Target Audience: Be there if you’ve used the Craigslist personals enough to have been driven crazy by posters who use discrete when they mean discreet.

      Never Shoot A Stampede Queen 

      (May 10 to 25 at the Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage)

      In this stage adaptation of his book Never Shoot a Stampede Queen: A Rookie Reporter in the Cariboo, Georgia Straight contributor Mark Leiren-Young mines the comedy from his time as a journalist at the Williams Lake Tribune.

      The Draw: A trifecta of awesomeness: the book won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour in 2009; star monologist TJ Dawe acts as dramaturge and director; and Zachary Stevenson, who was the geeky, sexy lead in the Arts Club’s The Buddy Holly Story, takes on the solo performance duties.

      Target Audience: City kids who dream of going country. This includes everybody in Vancouver who drives an SUV thinking that, one day, they might take it off-road.


      (June 29 to September 12 at Bard on the Beach’s Mainstage tent)

      Kim Collier will direct her partner, Jonathon Young, as the troubled Danish prince in this Bard on the Beach production. These two are the best.

      The Draw: The openhearted Jennifer Lines will take the role of Horatio, Hamlet’s most trusted friend.

      Target Audience: If you’ve figured out the point of existence, you can stay home. Everybody else should book early.