A little bloodless
but some good acting
Okay before I get to the show – what the hell was going on with the audience at the Frederic Wood Theatre? My companion and I could not hear great portions of the show because of the lady repeatedly open and closing a plastic bag loudly enjoying a snack. As if that wasn’t bad enough all the tiered seats below us had people texting and flashing videos. It’s no longer enough to ask them to turn things to silent it appears.
It was not a symptom of our side of the audience – at intermission we switched sides and there were even more people on their phones and yet another plastic bag!!
As annoying as it was it might also speak a little to the production.
Sharon Pollock wrote the award winning stylized play back in 1980 about the infamous 1892 murder of Lizzie Borden’s stepmother and father. She was acquitted but the real murderer was never found leaving room for speculation.
As written the piece weaves back and forth through time and the older Ms. Borden decided to finally answer her actress lover’s question of “Did you?”. Questions of women’s right and self-determination, status and class structure swirl around as various characters appear and disappear. The script has no clear entrances and exits written in. It’s supposed to flow and fold in on itself.
Jeanette White is an MFA Directing Candidate in the department of theatre of film and her cast is mostly comprised of senior students. She and design student Diana Sepulevda Navarrete have set the play in a giant birdcage that opens up at the beginning of the play.
The costumes by Elliott Squire are quite handsome, particularly that yellow dress Emma Borden (Georgia Beaty) wears. The projections by Clayton Brown works some of the time but mostly seemed random. The giant heads of the jurors were abstract and the shattering picture as Lizzie recounts the horror of the murder of her birds feels forced and obvious.
The actors – many of them playing well out of their age range do admirable work with the two actors playing Lizzie bringing a lot to their roles. As the young Lizzie – Mercedes de la Zerda has grace and desperation combined. She is often vital and spontaneous. Courtney Shields plays the older Lizzie with a righteous smugness and wicked sensibility, she also play the family maid Bridget.
The whole show is paced way to slow and there is no real sense of risk or danger despite the axe. I saw it later in the run and sometimes stakes drop, as the actors get more comfortable in their roles. There was a distancing effect that made the whole show feel like it was being treated too reverently. You admire the work but aren’t pulled in.
Which may partly explain why so many in the audience were on their phones.
Until April 6th
Heartfelt and actors to watch
but bigger doesn’t always mean better
This is the second version of Mother May I Vancouver has seen. Last year we got the one act 5 actors 60-minute version that was slightly melodramatic story of a young gay man’s remembrances growing up in a prairie nuclear family.
This new version has the same time-trippy, layered story telling. A young man named Peter returns with his lover in tow to pack up the family home after his mother’s death. As artifacts are packed memories come to life and we see older Peter shift into childhood interactions with his beloved sister and less than warm parents.
The actors made the story work particularly Lesli Brownlee as sister Janie and the amazing Morgan David Jones as our main protagonist. Mr. Jones shifts between ages some seamlessly and his ability to listen and respond is never less than riveting and Ms. Brownlee mostly matches him while juggling some pretty intense shifts in the plot.
This version (written and directed and sort of lived by Randi Parliament) adds a new character – Aunt Sue played by Lisa Dahling, but her character adds nothing new to the storyIn the first version the drunken father play by Greg Bishop is distant and then abusive. The mother played by Brenda Matthews hard and then distant. Both value keeping up appearances over confronting reality. Clearly these kids need an ally but all we see and learn about Aunt Sue is she likes to keep up appearances and gets distant when the going gets tough.
The inclusion of the Aunt also doesn’t help expand the relationship Peter has with his lover David played by Scott Alonzo. From the get go David is scolding and reluctant and then petulant as his boyfriend relives the horrors and overly sensitive when Peter mentions an ex-boyfriend. However the given circumstances is that if David had heard of Aunt Sue at all it would be Peter’s version of her and her interaction with the family in crisis. Even if he doesn’t know anything about Aunt Sue, surely he can see his boyfriend is quiet distressed in the house and more so when she is there. Yet when she arrives David immediately starts berating Peter for his treatment of her. A more interesting choice that might have added a new level is if in this David sided with his boyfriend maybe even learning later that she isn’t all that bad. It also would have allowed us a chance to see David putting his lovers feelings first for a change.
Maybe it was because it was a repeat viewing or the expanded text running at 90 minutes now but the melodrama was less involving now. As with Aunt Sue instead of adding more levels and layers, twists and turns, we just get more of the same.
Luckily we also get more Morgan David Jones and Leslie Brownlee. They bring life and heart to this drama about family secrets.
Until March 30th
Diversity Casting Tally Sheet 2013
Art holds a mirror up to our world, and in our Canadian society – in most urban centre the “visible minority” is at about 52% while most theatre (also found in most urban centers) is still all Caucasian. So here is a running total that will be updated with each show I see in Vancouver this year.
# of Plays Total Actors # Diverse Plays with Diverse Casting
35 215 39 16
David C. Jones
Here is the latest CultureVulture video BTW.