Stage ros­ter tack­les iden­tity, gen­der norms

From two large all-fe­male casts to East Van Panto’s Non-bi­nary Tin Per­son, plays this fall are hav­ing fun chal­leng­ing tra­di­tions

The Georgia Straight - - Fall Arts Preview -


Iden­tity is a big theme on Van­cou­ver 2 stages this fall, and so is up­end­ing gen­der norms: two of the plays high­lighted here have dou­bledigit all-fe­male casts. There are also shows that ques­tion the gen­der bi­nary (the Cultch’s Testos­terone, Pi The­atre’s Hir), and some that tackle is­sues of race and racism in un­con­ven­tional set­tings (Pre­sen­ta­tion House’s Tales of an Ur­ban In­dian on a bus, and a re­mount of Univer­sal Lim­ited’s site-spe­cific Ja­panese Prob­lem at Hastings Park). For tech­ni­cal daz­zle and an ex­cel­lent cast and cre­ative team, check out new Arts Club artis­tic direc­tor Ash­lie Cor­co­ran’s di­rec­to­rial de­but at the Stan­ley, The Cu­ri­ous In­ci­dent of the Dog in the Night-time—al­ready open by the time you read this. And vir­tu­ally ev­ery show at the Cultch this fall looks fan­tas­tic: if you’re look­ing to sub­scribe, start there.

KAMLOOPA (At the Cultch’s His­toric The­atre from Septem­ber 25 to Oc­to­ber 6) De­scribed as a cer­e­mony rather than a con­ven­tional play, Kamloopa seeks to em­power and cel­e­brate In­dige­nous women with its story of two sis­ters and a trick­ster fig­ure on a lit­eral and metaphor­i­cal jour­ney of self-dis­cov­ery. The Draw: Writer-direc­tor Kim Sen­klip Har­vey has es­tab­lished her­self as an ac­tor over the past decade. This, her first script, is sup­ported by no fewer than five the­atre com­pa­nies from across the coun­try. Tar­get Au­di­ence: Those who see them­selves in the work and those who want to wit­ness.

LES BELLES-SOEURS (At the Gate­way The­atre from Septem­ber 27 to Oc­to­ber 6) It’s been half a cen­tury since the Mon­treal pre­miere of Michel Trem­blay’s ground­break­ing clas­sic, about a com­mu­nity of women who gather to help a work­ing-class house­wife paste her wind­fall of food stamps into book­lets. But in­cred­i­bly, this pro­duc­tion, from Ruby Slip­pers, will be the play’s first pro­fes­sional treat­ment in Metro Van­cou­ver. Diane Brown di­rects. The Draw: The tal­ent. There are 15 amaz­ing women—some emerg­ing, some very es­tab­lished—in the cast. Tar­get Au­di­ence: The for­tu­nate and the jeal­ous.


(At the Cultch’s His­toric The­atre from Oc­to­ber 10 to 20) Play­wright Jor­dan Hall teams up with shadow pup­pet wizards Mind of a Snail for this Upintheair The­atre pro­duc­tion, set 160 years from now as the last hu­mans on Earth try to sal­vage some part of the planet’s now un­in­hab­it­able en­vi­ron­ment. The Draw: Brains and in­no­va­tion. Jor­dan Hall’s smart scripts don’t sug­ar­coat en­vi­ron­men­tal doom, and Mind of a Snail cre­ated one of last year’s most in­no­va­tive shows, Mul­ti­ple Or­gan­ism. Tar­get Au­di­ence: Peo­ple who com­post. And make art from their com­post.

KILL ME NOW (At the Fire­hall Arts Cen­tre from Oc­to­ber 13 to 27) Brad Fraser’s new play—about a father whose role as care­taker for his dis­abled 17-year-old son is knocked side­ways when he him­self de­vel­ops a se­ri­ous ill­ness—has been well­re­viewed in ear­lier pro­duc­tions in Lon­don and New York. Touch­stone The­atre’s Roy Surette di­rects an im­pres­sive cast. The Draw: Moral am­bi­gu­ity. Tar­get Au­di­ence: Grownups.

(At Pa­cific The­atre from Oc­to­ber 19 to Novem­ber 10) Sarah De­lappe’s script—a nu­anced ex­plo­ration of fe­male ado­les­cence


through the lens of a high-school girls’ soc­cer team—made the New York Times’ list of the top 25 Amer­i­can plays since Angels in Amer­ica. Direc­tor Jamie King helms an out­stand­ing cast of young women ac­tors who de­serve to be seen more of­ten. The Draw: Watch­ing nine women kick a soc­cer ball around on Pa­cific The­atre’s tiny stage while de­liv­er­ing di­a­logue that per­fectly cap­tures the inar­tic­u­late awk­ward­ness of teenage hopes and heart­breaks. Tar­get Au­di­ence: You don’t have to like soc­cer to ap­pre­ci­ate this play, but it helps if you’ve been through ado­les­cence.

SWEAT (At the Stan­ley In­dus­trial Alliance Stage from Oc­to­ber 24 to Novem­ber 18) Va­lerie Planche di­rects this Arts Club/citadel co­pro­duc­tion of Lynn Not­tage’s timely ex­plo­ration of racial and class ten­sions among a group of drink­ing bud­dies who work at a Penn­syl­va­nia fac­tory. The New York pro­duc­tion is cur­rently on tour in the Mid­west­ern states, of­fer­ing free per­for­mances in ad­vance of the U.S. midterm elec­tions. The Draw: The script, for which Not­tage won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize. The New York Times’ Ben Brant­ley called it “the first work from a ma­jor Amer­i­can play­wright to sum­mon, with em­pa­thy and with­out judg­ment, the na­tion­wide anx­i­ety that helped put Don­ald J. Trump in the White House”. Tar­get Au­di­ence: Bridge builders, not wedge driv­ers.

BACK­BONE (At the Van­cou­ver Play­house from Oc­to­ber 30 to Novem­ber 4) Aus­tralian cir­cus com­pany Grav­ity & Other Myths blew away Van­cou­ver au­di­ences in 2015 with A Sim­ple Space, a show in which they glee­fully tossed each other’s bod­ies around on a tiny por­tion of the York The­atre’s stage. This new, big­ger show (pre­sented by the Cultch at the Play­house) fo­cuses on strength. The Draw: When these ac­ro­bats use the word strength, they’re mea­sur­ing it in terms most of us can only imag­ine. Tar­get Au­di­ence: Any­one who paid 10 bucks to try hang­ing by their arms for two min­utes at the Pne—and ev­ery­one who watched.


(At the York The­atre from Novem­ber 28 to Jan­uary 6) The­atre Re­place­ment and play­wright Mar­cus Youssef take this year’s East Van Panto be­yond the Brothers Grimm to the sil­ver screen, with a po­lit­i­cally charged take on The Wizard of Oz, re­plac­ing the Kansas tor­nado with a Poco pipe­line ex­plo­sion that sends Dorothy and Toto off in search of the Green­est City. The Draw: Veda Hille’s mu­sic, and Youssef’s wit. Dorothy’s com­pan­ions in­clude a Non­bi­nary Tin Per­son. Tar­get Au­di­ence: Pipe­line pro­test­ers and pipe­line own­ers—oh wait, that’s ev­ery­one.


A Brief His­tory of Hu­man Ex­tinc­tion Les Belles-soeurs

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