Fall arts preview 2017 theatre critics' picks: The fun in dysfunction takes to the stage

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      This fall’s theatre offerings tackle both private and public dysfunction, historical and contemporary, but as the holidays draw nearer, we’ll see shows that flat-out flip the finger at seriousness. The nine shows listed below reflect a welcome continuation of the increased diversity we saw on Vancouver’s stages last season, along with some changes in leadership: it’s Bill Millerd’s last season at the Arts Club and Roy Surette’s return to Touchstone Theatre.

      Heather Redfern has programmed another exceptional season for the Cultch’s three stages; my list ends in December, but watch for Hot Brown Honey and Black Boys there in January. And watch for an announcement later this fall of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival’s programming (January 16 to February 4).


      Tetsuro Shigematsu is in 1 Hour Photo.
      Raymond Shum

      1 Hour Photo

      At the Cultch’s Historic Theatre from October 3 to 15

      Writer-performer Tetsuro Shigematsu explored his relationship with his father in the critically lauded Empire of the Son. Now he turns to a friend’s father, Mas Yamamoto, whose life has intersected with major currents of 20th-century politics, from the Japanese internment camps of the Second World War to the Cold War.
      The Draw: History, both shameful (it’s been 75 years since Japanese Canadians were interned during the Second World War) and triumphant (Shigematsu’s previous show was a huge hit).
      Target Audience: People smart enough to appreciate their parents’ stories.



      At the Firehall Arts Centre from October 4 to 14

      The Elbow Theatre premieres a new work that examines how communications technology is disrupting our ability to connect in real time and space. With everyone we know and love always at our fingertips, why are we still lonely?
      The Draw: The team. Writer-performers T J Dawe and Itai Erdal have both toured the world with critically acclaimed monologues, and Rachel Peake has emerged in recent years as a smart and stylish director.
      Target Audience: Are you reading this on a screen? You’re it.


      Thanks for Giving

      At the Arts Club Granville Island Stage from October 5 to November 4

      The latest in the Arts Club’s Silver Commissions sees Kevin Loring directing a mostly Indigenous cast, including Margo Kane as the matriarch of a family whose secrets spell trouble at a Thanksgiving dinner that goes off the rails.
      The Draw: The playwright. Loring’s debut, Where the Blood Mixes, was a gorgeous character study that won the Governor General’s Award for drama, and he was recently selected as the inaugural artistic director of the National Arts Centre’s new Indigenous Theatre.
      Target Audience: This can be your excuse for skipping that family dinner.


      Happy Place

      At the Firehall Arts Centre from October 20 to 29

      Roy Surette returns to the helm of Touchstone Theatre to direct this coproduction (with Ruby Slippers and the Diwali Festival) of a play by Pamela Mala Sinha that was well-received in its 2015 Toronto premiere. The play, set in an in-patient care facility, focuses on a group of women recovering from trauma.
      The Draw: The powerhouse all-female cast—Diane Brown, Nicola Cavendish, Sereana Malani, Adele Noronha, Laara Sadiq, Colleen Wheeler, and Donna Yamamoto—who collectively have earned more than 50 Jessie nominations and awards.
      Target Audience: These women don’t just have a lot of awards; they have a lot of fans—and if you’re not one yet, you will be.


      The Ridiculous Darkness

      At the Orpheum Annex from November 11 to 19

      Alley Theatre teams up with Neworld Theatre, Theatre Terrific, and a host of community partners to present the North American premiere of German playwright Wolfram Lotz’s award-winning satirical fusion of Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now.
      The Draw: A cast that embodies diversity in race and ability, plus taiko drummers, powwow dancers, a marching band, street vendors, and a children’s choir. This is not your average night at the theatre.
      Target Audience: You want big? You want lively? You want hope in these dark times? Here you go.



      At Performance Works from November 17 to 26

      Aaron Bushkowsky’s latest play, a dark comedy inspired by Caroline Adderson’s book Vancouver Vanishes, zeroes in on our city’s housing crisis and features an activist author, a corrupt city staffer, a satellite kid, and, of course, realtors. This Solo Collective Theatre production boasts a strong cast of newcomers and veterans of the local scene.
      The Draw: Relevance.
      Target Audience: Aspiring homeowners consigned to the distant suburbs.

      Onegin is back at the Arts Club, for those who missed it the first time.
      David Cooper




      At the Arts Club Granville Island Stage from November 23 to December 31

      When Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille’s retooling of Alexander Pushkin and Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky premiered a year-and-a-half ago, patrons flocked to this unabashed celebration of lyubov (“love” in Russian), with many returning a second or third time, or reliving the magic thanks to the original-cast recording of Hille’s supremely romantic songs.
      The Draw: The music! And the show’s proven excellence. The reviews of the original production were uniformly rapturous, and the creators lugged home most of the hardware at the 2016 Jessie Awards.
      Target Audience: If you missed out on tickets last time, hurry up and book!


      East Van Panto: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

      At the York Theatre from November 29 to January 6

      In this fourth installment of Vancouver’s hippest holiday tradition, brought to you by Theatre Replacement, the seven dwarves are a washed-up ’80s band playing at the PNE. Can’t wait to hear what songs music director Veda Hille puts in their set list.
      The Draw: Making fun of East Vancouver stereotypes, even if you are one.
      Target Audience: Fans of unabashed absurdity. And their kids.


      Little Dickens: The Daisy Theatre

      At the Cultch’s Historic Theatre from December 5 to 22

      Ronnie Burkett’s Daisy Theatre has blown away three seasons’ worth of audiences at the Cultch. Now Burkett unleashes his adults-only humour on Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Watch faded diva Esmé Massengill take on the role of a soused and bitter Scrooge as the other Daisy fixtures play supporting roles.
      The Draw: Schnitzel as Tiny Tim!
      Target Audience: Adults only. The kind who secretly spike the eggnog.