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By Amy Ruther­ford. Directed by Anita Ro­chon. A Stu­dio 58 pro­duc­tion, in as­so­ci­a­tion with Touch­stone The­atre. At Stu­dio 58 on Satur­day, Novem­ber 17. Con­tin­ues un­til De­cem­ber 2

THE EX­QUIS­ITE pain of a girl grow­ing up—cana­dian play­wright Amy Ruther­ford cap­tures it in all its ex­cru­ci­at­ing, awk­ward de­tail in her new play Mor­ti­fied.

Stu­dio 58 brings her com­ing-ofage story to life with strong lead per­for­mances and a pro­duc­tion that’s as metaphor­i­cally vi­sion­ary as it is phys­i­cally charged.

In it, an un­named Woman (Lind­sey An­gell) re­flects on—and goes back to con­front—her younger self, Girl (Emily Jane King), af­ter run­ning into an old boyfriend in the mall. She’s still trau­ma­tized, more than two decades later, by the mem­o­ries that play out in front of her—of a naive, over­sched­uled 13-year-old hook­ing up with a 21-year-old dirt­bag named Ty (Isaac Mazur).

In Pam John­son’s bril­liant set, the play takes place sur­re­ally on the bot­tom of an old swim­ming pool, with a div­ing board over­head, chipped blue tiles along its rim, and wa­tery light danc­ing on its walls. The set trans­forms eas­ily from high-school hall­ways to the lonely headspace where a girl feels like she’s sink­ing, alone. The play’s sin­is­ter, stiletto-wear­ing swim coach (Jessie Liang) of­ten prowls the div­ing board above Girl.

An ever-chang­ing cho­rus, as ev­ery­one from dance-club­bers to stu­dents in sweat suits, moves the ac­tion along at a buzzy pace. At one point the group holds a sheet, stuffies, and pil­lows aloft to give us an over­head view of Girl’s bed. Else­where, they don satin and nose clips to per­form a slap­stick syn­chro­nized-swim­ming rou­tine. Be­tween di­rec­tor Anita Ro­chon’s block­ing and chore­og­ra­pher Am­ber Funk Bar­ton’s phys­i­cal chops, the piece is a ki­netic mar­vel.

But it wouldn’t all work with­out the nat­u­ral, nu­anced per­for­mance by King. As gan­gly as a fawn, and al­ways wear­ing jelly shoes that re­mind us she’s on the edge of child­hood, she finds an hon­esty and a guile­less cu­rios­ity. Most im­por­tant to Ruther­ford, it seems, is that Girl is never a vic­tim. When she makes mis­takes—and, dear God, they’re whop­pers—we un­der­stand why. She’s feel­ing alien­ated in a new school, she’s in a per­fec­tion­ist sport, and she’s con­stantly be­ing fed sex­u­al­ized images of teens.

An­gell, too, finds raw, real-feel­ing emo­tion as her older, to­gether-but­falling-apart self. Ian Butcher paints a fan­tas­tic por­trait of loser­dom as the mid­dle-aged and ut­terly un­tor­mented Ty. And Mazur builds threat be­hind his dense man-child—the kind you’ll in­stantly rec­og­nize from the mall, com­plete with five-sizestoo-big jeans hang­ing off his ass.

The play goes to some in­cred­i­bly dark places, but Ruther­ford, sur­pris­ingly, finds a lot of laugh­ter. Some­times it comes from Girl’s Ward Cleaver– es­que dad (Nolan Mc­connell-fidyk), who thinks a good game of Bog­gle can solve any­thing; some­times it comes from the ab­sur­di­ties of the time­trav­el­ling premise (note the re­ac­tion when Woman shows her cell­phone to high-school­ers who have only ever seen a pager). Ruther­ford has a knack for vivid and un­pre­ten­tious de­tail; we know Ty smells like the “in­side of a card­board box”. And she’s un­afraid to go there: in one scene, King’s char­ac­ter learns how to use a tam­pon.

Come to think of it, the very fear­less­ness of Mor­ti­fied is the big­gest strength of a play that has many. In this #Metoo mo­ment, Ruther­ford is draw­ing from real-life ex­pe­ri­ence to shade in the com­plex­i­ties of con­sent and shame. And 25 years later, so­ci­ety is send­ing teen girls more mixed mes­sages than ever. If you know one, or you were one who made mor­ti­fy­ing mis­takes of your own, you need to see this show. by Janet Smith

BACIO ROSSO At Queen El­iz­a­beth Park on Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 30. Con­tin­ues un­til De­cem­ber 31

BACIO ROSSO IS un­like any­thing Van­cou­ver has ever seen. Where else do you get a room full of strangers break­ing into an im­promptu dance party while a pow­er­house cabaret singer en­cour­ages the limbo in an evening where plates fly, a ma­gi­cian reads minds, and a pair of mus­cu­lar trapeze artists strip down to their sparkling skivvies, all within a few feet of your din­ner ta­ble?

Com­plete with a fan­tas­tic live band that in­cludes ac­cor­dion, clar­inet, and trum­pet, the show is bois­ter­ous and fun. The cast is stel­lar. But the pro­duc­tion isn’t per­fect.

The three-and-a-half-hour event, which in­cludes a four-course meal, takes place near the pub­lic ten­nis courts at Queen El­iz­a­beth Park in a spiegel­tent, or “mir­ror tent” (be­cause of the hun­dreds of bev­elled mir­rors in­side). Named the Magic Cristal, it was im­ported from Bel­gium just for the run and is draped in red vel­vet.

Mean­ing “red kiss” in Ital­ian, Bacio Rosso is full of sur­prises. Suf­fice it to say this is a show that breaks down the fourth wall. There are two stages, one for the mu­si­cians and one in the cen­tre of the in­ti­mate room where much of the com­edy, ac­ro­bat­ics, danc­ing, and magic take a place; how­ever, per­form­ers also make their way through much of the space, whether they’re play­ing per­cus­sion or im­pos­si­bly pulling dol­lar coins from be­hind spec­ta­tors’ ears.

The artists are stand­outs in their re­spec­tive fields, with Rus­sia’s Dima Shine stand­ing on one hand atop a ro­tat­ing pole, the shirt­less for­mer Cirque du Soleil mem­ber wowing with his grace­ful strength. Un­like in most other cir­cus shows, though, per­form­ers here are so close that we can see beads of sweat form­ing on their sculpted bod­ies; their prox­im­ity makes the phys­i­cal­ity of their acts all the more im­pres­sive.

We couldn’t get enough of two

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Photo by Emily Cooper

Ella Storey, Emily Jane King, Nolan Mc­connell-fidyk in Mor­ti­fied.

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