Naughty Elves and Grumpy Gulf-Islanders: Holiday Comedies for Grinches in Vancouver

Photo by David Cooper. Courtesy of Arts Club.

Photo by David Cooper. Courtesy of Arts Club.

There’s snow on the North Shore Mountains. It gets dark before you leave work. The Bay is piping in Christmas music.  It’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays in Vancouver.

To help ease even the grinchiest among us into the holiday spirit, the Arts Club Theatre Company is premiering two wickedly funny and seriously offbeat Christmas-themed productions later this month: David Sedaris’ classic Santaland Diaries and the homegrown favourite It’s Snowing on Saltspring.

Santaland Diaries, based on Sedaris’ true short story, documents the bleak December he spent working as an elf at a Macy’s Santaland display in Manhattan.  A 33-year-old, seriously underemployed writer at the time, Sedaris reluctantly takes the job and discovers his own brand of holiday Hell.  Wicked, sarcastic and decidedly un-politically correct, this one-man show is the perfect anecdote to sugar-coated holiday productions.

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Naughty Elves and Grumpy Gulf-Islanders: Holiday Comedies for Grinches in Vancouver

1-Act Theatre Fest Coming to Vancouver, June 14-15

Like theatre but got a short attention span?  This festival is for you.

The Cultch in Vancouver is hosting a unique one-act theatre fest June 14-15.  For $18, you get four mini plays back to back – with all the action and drama condensed down into a single act each.

I think this is brilliant.  The traditional, three-act play is a cultural pillar that goes all the way back to Aristotle – but lots of people are intimidated by the length.  With so many other entertainment options out there – 3D movies, HD TV, YouTube – asking an audience to sit through two intermissions is a tall order.

Enter the one-act play.  Think of it as a short story.  You get all the climax and character and tension – but none of the tedious lead up and resolution of a three-act play.  Here’s what’s in store at the 1-Act Festival. Continue reading:
1-Act Theatre Fest Coming to Vancouver, June 14-15

The Original Real Housewives: Cole Porter’s High Society at the Stanley Theatre

Photo by Tim Matheson

Who would have thought that a musical written in the 1950s and set in the 1930s would have so much to say about Vancouver in 2012?

The Arts Club’s production of Cole Porter’s High Society premiered at downtown’s Stanley Theatre last week and runs through June 24.  The musical is about a wealthy Long Island family on the eve of their daughter’s wedding.

It’s campy, light fare, with catchy tunes and plenty of witty one-liners – at least on the surface.  But deeper down – stay with me on this one – it’s a veiled commentary on Vancouver’s own social scene.

Take the lead, for instance, middle-aged socialite Tracy Lord, who’s about to go down the aisle.  In Tracy, we have a perfect prototype for the Real Housewives of Vancouver.  She’s already burned through a few husbands and is about to get married to another young stud.  From the day she was born, she’s been told she’s a princess. She spends her days riding horses and living the high life.  And she’s deeply unhappy.

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The Original Real Housewives: Cole Porter’s High Society at the Stanley Theatre

The Importance of Being Earnest: Oscar Wilde’s classic play at the Stanley through April 15

You may not know Ryan Beil – the star of the Arts Club’s new production of The Importance of Being Earnest – by name.   But I’m pretty sure you’d recognize his face.

The Vancouver born-and-raised actor plays the nerdy burger flipper in the A&W Mama Burger commercials, like the one above.  And if he’s that funny in a 30-second ad, imagine what he could do with in a three-act production of one of the wittiest plays ever written in English.

Beil steals the show in the Arts Club’s The Importance of Being Earnest, playing at the Stanley through April 15.  His stiff delivery and nasal voice (not always assets in theatre) are perfectly suited to the so-called “trivial comedy for serious people,” penned by Oscar Wilde in 1895.  Even if you’re not a theatre buff, you’ll probably get a kick out of watching Beil posture on stage in waistcoats and top hats for a few hours.  I did.  Continue reading:
The Importance of Being Earnest: Oscar Wilde’s classic play at the Stanley through April 15

Transgender Drama: The Silicone Diaries in Vancouver, thru Feb 25

Nina Arsenault is a classic blonde bombshell. But she wasn’t always that way. Born in 1974 in an Ontario trailer park as Rodney Arsenault, Nina lived her life as a man until 1996, when she underwent the first of more then 60 surgeries to transform her into the perfect woman.

Arsenault relays the sometimes harrowing, sometimes inspiring story of her transformation in the one-act play The Silicone Diaries, appearing in February at the historic Cultch theatre. Her surgical odyssey spanned more than eight years of cosmetic operations, with medical bills totaling more than $150,000.

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Transgender Drama: The Silicone Diaries in Vancouver, thru Feb 25

The famous play about nothing: Waiting for Godot at the Cultch

Even if you don’t follow much theatre, you might have heard about Waiting for Godot.  It’s the famous play by Samuel Beckett, which premiered in France in 1953, about absolutely nothing.  Two guys wait on the side of a road for a few days – then the curtain falls.  End of story.

And though it might sound like a weird form of audience cruelty, Waiting for Godot has actually been electrifying and intriguing viewers for decades.  Vancouver audiences can decide for themselves whether Waiting for Godot is a masterpiece or a bore this month during the play’s run at the Cultch, presented by Blackbird Theatre.

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The famous play about nothing: Waiting for Godot at the Cultch

Weirdest Theatre Festival in Vancouver: The Fringe Sept 8-18

vancouver fringe festival

What would happen if a theatre festival allowed anyone – from unknown amateurs to established pros –to perform?  That’s exactly the question that Vancouver’s oddest Thespian happening, the annual Fringe Festival, seeks to answer.

Over the course of the 11-day festival, 89 different troupes will deliver more than 700 individual performances.  Offerings, which are staged at seven main venues scattered around the waterfront Granville Island neighborhood, range from more-or-less conventional plays to innovative pieces that explore questions of gender and sexuality to alternative works that push the limits of bizarre.

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Weirdest Theatre Festival in Vancouver: The Fringe Sept 8-18