Fall arts preview 2015 theatre critics' picks: Local writers take the spotlight on city stages

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      Vancouver, prepare to celebrate your homegrown theatre artists! This fall, five of the nine hottest tickets in town—Love Bomb, Are We Cool Now?, The Waiting Room, Empire of the Son, and Flee—are premieres by local writers. And the first three of these are new musicals.

      Whatever we’re putting in our water, let’s add more of it.

      If you’re looking for a subscription series, the Choose 5 and Choose 8 packages from the Cultch give you a great combination of value, flexibility, and choice, and they will leave you some dough to cherry-pick elsewhere, which you’ll want to do: there are so many exciting shows this season from companies large and small. Dig in.



      (September 23 to October 18 at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage)

      Amir is a Pakistani-American lawyer who claims to have transcended racial stereotypes through “sheer intelligence”, but his posh New York dinner party goes to hell when he admits to feeling a hint of pride at 9/11.

      The Draw: When the curtain comes down on this Arts Club production, sparks will continue to fly. 

      Target Audience: Liberals who feel unimplicated in the discussions of race and culture.


      Love Bomb

      (September 30 to October 10 at the Firehall Arts Centre)

      In local writer Meghan Gardiner’s script for this two-character musical, Justine gives a rock performance—and her response to the presence of one unexpected person in the audience shapes the night.

      The Draw: Steve Charles, who created unforgettable arrangements for Chelsea Hotel, wrote the songs. So there’s that, plus some serious content from Gardiner: Love Bomb, which is being produced by Shameless Hussy Productions, looks at sex trafficking.

      Target Audience: Grownups.


      Are We Cool Now?

      (September 30 to October 10 in the Cultch’s Historic Theatre)

      In this indie-rock musical written and directed by Amiel Gladstone (Craigslist Cantata), the music of Dan Mangan helps to tell the story of a twentysomething couple as they struggle with love and meaning—on a road trip.

      The Draw: The perfume of youthful talent. Ben Elliott and Penelope Corrin star, Anton Lipovetsky backs them up on guitar and bass, and Said the Whale’s Spencer Schoening plays percussion in this production from Western Canada Theatre.

      Target Audience: Hipsters, sweet hipsters.


      Romeo + Juliet

      (October 3 to 18 at Studio 58)

      In director Anita Rochon’s reimagining of the Shakespearean classic for Studio 58, Romeo and Juliet are a young lesbian couple, and they meet in a party at Andy Warhol’s Factory.

      The Draw: Rochon’s fresh eye; she staged a triumphantly fanciful Cymbeline for Bard on the Beach in 2014.

      Target Audience: Romantic outsiders. (You. Face it.)


      Empire Of The Son

      (October 7 to 17 in the Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab)

      Former broadcaster Tetsuro Shigematsu (CBC’s The Roundup) explores his relationship with his dying father. Different languages and differing cultural definitions of what it means to be a man separate them. But it’s possible that what really keeps them apart is their similarities.

      The Draw: Shigematsu is a theatre newbie, but he has attracted an impressive team to work with him, including director Richard Wolfe and designers Pam Johnson, Gerald King, Barbara Clayden, and Steve Charles (set, lighting, costumes, and sound). By their friends shall you know them.

      Target Audience: Members of immigrant families will appreciate this piece from Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre. So will anybody who has ever had a parent.


      The Waiting Room

      (October 7 to 31 at the Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage)

      Spirit of the West’s John Mann and playwright Morris Panych created this new musical, which explores the life of a character called J before and after he is diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

      The Draw: Love and respect for John Mann, who survived the illness he’s making art from and who is now living with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

      Target Audience: Fans of Mann’s music and Panych’s wit. This Arts Club production will be poignant. It will also be a good time.



      (October 30 to November 8 at Performance Works)

      In Mike Bartlett’s play, which won the Olivier Award for best new script in 2010, John, who has been with his boyfriend for seven years, falls in love with a woman.

      The Draw: Well, there’s the title—and the promise of a play that addresses the complexities of love.

      Target Audience: The Guardian’s Michael Billington wrote that Cock is about “the paralyzing indecision that comes from not knowing who one really is”. Sound familiar?



      (November 3 to 14 at the Cultch’s York Theatre)

      On December 16, 2012, Jyoti Singh Pandey, a physiotherapy student, boarded a bus in Delhi. She was tortured and raped, and died two weeks later. In director Yaël Farber’s production, five women tell Pandey’s story as well as recounting their own experiences of sexual violence—including a gang rape in Chicago.

      The Draw: Giving witness gives hope.

      Target Audience: Anyone who saw Farber’s iconic Mies Julie will know how powerful her work can be. This performance was produced by Assembly, Riverside Studios, and Poorna Jagannathan Productions, and is presented here in partnership with Diwali Fest.



      (November 28 to December 6 at the Fox Cabaret)

      This coproduction between the Electric Company Theatre and Studio 58 is about a destitute watchmaker who creates a flea circus that becomes a cult hit. Then the fleas start to run the show.

      The Draw: A ridiculous pile-up of talent. Jonathon Young, who cowrote the show with David Hudgins, directs. The cast includes Peter Anderson, Lois Anderson, David Peterson, and—get this—Studio 58’s artistic director Kathryn Shaw. And then there’s the band: Peggy Lee, who wrote the original music, JP Carter, Ron Samworth, and Dylan van der Schyff.

      Target Audience: The Fox Cabaret used to be the Fox Cinema porno house. No doubt the audience will include former habitués who want to find out what the place is like when the floor’s not so sticky.