TOO MUCH THEATRE; NOT ENOUGH TIME
Like The Beatles, there are times I wish there were eight days in a week.
October was a prime example. There were so many plays opening at the same time that it was simply impossible to get to all opening nights, which meant when I finally saw the shows, it was too late to let readers know what they were missing.
Sage Theatre’s production of Half the Battle, which opened on Halloween, has a longer run than most independent productions. I managed to catch it on its second week, so there is time to spread the word.
It’s a triple-R remarkable performance, achievement and showcase for Owen Bishop, who wrote and performs this solo show about a pair of Canadian flyers in the Second World War.
Adams, a brash pilot from Newfoundland, and his milder co-pilot Davis from the Prairies have been shot down and are in a state of limbo, literally joined together. The bearded Adams inhabits the left side of Owen while the clean-shaven Davis holds court from his right. It doesn’t take long to make the metaphor clear that these are two halves of Canada.
Owen gets some great laughs from this surreal predicament as when Adams asks his complaining counterpart if Davis would like to get something off his side of their chest or when Adams drinks some moonshine from a flask and Davis complains about how much it burns. At one point, they have a fist fight and find themselves or, more accurately themself, rolling on the floor.
Owen inserts this levity between the serious discussions Adams and Davis have about what they’ve seen in battles, what brought them to enlist and what they’ve left behind.
Half the Battle is an ideal Remembrance Day show and one that should eventually play in the Maritimes as well as the Prairies.
It is to Owen’s credit that he is able to alternate so effortlessly between the absurd and the poignant and that he reveals some little-known facts as to how close the Second World War actually came to Canada.
Half the Battle, which is a coproduction between Sage’s newly initiated Stepping Stone Project and DIY Theatre, is directed with theatrical flair by DIY’s Shelby Reinitz. It runs in the Arts Commons’ Motel Theatre at 7:30 p.m. until Nov. 10 with audience talkbacks scheduled after most of the remaining performances.
Seating is very limited so check out diytheatre.org/ half-the-battle to reserve seats. This is one show you don’t want to miss.
ALIENS AND A FEW GOOD MEN AT THE PUMPHOUSE
From my most recent I-wish-Ihad-seen-them-sooner file are Theatre BSMT’s Bright Lights and Strictly Theatre’s A Few Good Men.
Theatre BSMT’s artistic director Ryan Reese scheduled a fourday, six-performance run of Kat Sandler’s comic thriller Bright Lights to coincide with Halloween. Word of mouth saw the company turning people away from the final four performances.
Reese and his tech crew transformed the Pumphouse’s Joyce Doolittle Theatre into a church basement shared by a daycare and an alien abduction support group.
Defying the absurdity of the play’s premise and characters, director Conrad Belau strove for a sense of naturalism. As the audience was still being seated, a very pregnant-looking Sienna Holden put all of the daycare toys and tiny chairs away so she could set up the support group’s table, all the while making coffee for her fellow abductees.
The survivalist of the group, played by John McIver, arrived clutching a duffel bag full of weapons while Connor Christmas’s recovering addict eagerly related his latest conspiracy theories. The trio eventually is joined by its leader, played by a rather smug Bryson Wiese. What should have been a mundane meeting turned chaotic with the arrival of a newcomer played by Madeline Taylor- Gregg, who accuses Wiese of being an alien.
Theatre BSMT’s Bright Lights deserved a much longer run and its arrival at the Joyce Doolittle bumped Strictly Theatre’s impressive production of Aaron Sorkin’s military thriller A Few Good Men which was also turning people away from each performance.
Where the cast of Bright Lights was composed of emerging artists, A Few Good Men featured a full community theatre cast lead by Greg Spielman, Bryan Smith and Gillian Klassen, reminding us once again in Calgary there is often a fine line between professional and community theatre.
There are plans to revive A Few Good Men for another limited run in June.
Dancer Dennis Alamanos performs in Chotto Desh, a multimedia story created by renowned choreographer Abram Khan.