Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy Of

Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy Of is many things. It is a stinging indictment towards police brutality, It is a deep look into race relations in modern day Canada, It a an ardent love letter towards rap and hip hop, it is an emotionally intense drama, But one thing that all of these parts build to is that it is one of the best shows of the year.

The play follows the rap group Sal Copone as they react to the death of there DJ in a brutal police shooting. The play is narrated by Shey Ney Ney a crossdressing prostitute. He discusses the central issues of the play in a way that is both profane and poetic. The lead character is Sal a young black man who leads the group. He is utterly shocked by what happens to Freddy, the groups DJ who was shot by the police and begins the play hiding away in his room writing. Jewel is a young woman who also raps in the group. She is aggressive angry, sarcastic and my favorite character. Chase handles the business end of the band and tries to remain in denial about the injustices that the police’s actions show. Freddy’s little sister Naimi is very young and a little naive. She worries about what her big brother is doing in the aftermath of his friend’s death.

The play deals with a lot of issues. Including: police brutality and how it intersects with racism, Canada’s reputation as an egalitarian paradise and the many ways it is unearned, sexism and homophobia. Despite covering all of this territory in a relatively short play the characters never feel like there preaching to the audience. It all sounds like what the characters would say in the situation their in.

 

Another refreshing thing about the play is that very few scenes are only dramatic or only funny. Even in scenes that are mostly fun and humorous have a tragic tinge to them and even sad scenes have a bit of humor. This is very true to life. Very often people find humor in even the most tragic of circumstances.

 

(This paragraph contains spoilers) One of the most interesting elements of the play is how it subverts the usual structure of a tragedy.  Traditionally tragedy is not really an unjust genre. The Traditional tragic Hero misbehaves because of a tragic flaw. At the end of the play because they could not overcome this flaw they are punished. In this play that is not the case. No one really has a specific tragic flaw, and in the end It is Sal, who arguably has the best balance between level headiness and justice who suffers the worst while Chase who arguably acts the worst out of all the characters and escalated the situation to this point is comparatively unscathed. There is a simple reason for this: Sal is black and Chase is white. A traditional tragedy leaves the audience feeling sad yes, but also very satisfied. This play leaves the audience angry at the status quo that allows such injustice and that is a very important feeling.

 

The acting is phenomenal. You feel like your there with the actors. Seth Whittaker is phenomenal as Sal. He perfectly captures all of the character’s emotions, his anger at his friend’s death, his guilt, his intelligence and artistic talent, and his protectiveness towards his little Sister. Leitia Brooks  is also great in the role of Sal’s little sister Naomi. She really captures both the character’s naiveté and her intelligence. The two actor’s chemistry is perfect as well. They both act like a real brother and sister. Kim Villagante is amazing in the Role of Jay. She captures the characters’ anger but also her general emotional openness and sadness at her friend’s death.Jordan Waunch  is great in the role of Chase. He brings a certain charm and wit to what is ultimately a very difficult character.  Finally, Troy Emery Twig is phenomenal in the role of Sheneyney. He captures the character’s camp mannerisms and snark but also the character’s fear about the way the authorities treat him and his kindness.

 

Overall this is a really powerful and important play and shows why we need diversity not only when it comes to the actors we cast but also the creators we promote.

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Cannibal the musical

Cannibal the musical is the funniest play about bestiality, starvation, and public hangings.
The play follows Alfred Packer a man accused of the grisly murder and cannibalization of his party of miners. The reporter Polly Pry manages to sneak into his cell and convince him to tell her the true story of what happened. Packer and his horse Liane are invited to join a group of minors on a journey to Colorado territory. Unfortunately the original guide Lucky Larry is suddenly struck by a bolt of lightning so they recruit Packer who has been in the area before to be there guide but it soon becomes clear that he does not know the area nearly as well as they think he does.
Despite the very dark subject matter cannibal is a very funny musical, the element that sets it apart from a lot of dark comedies is actually the way the humor functions. Despite the fact that the humor absolutely has the same edge to it as many other dark comedies it doesn’t feel like it has an edge to it. Much of the comedy feels very light, despite the very dark subject matter. Most of the characters are very likable and fun, even the ones who do terrible things. However when terrible things happen to the characters rather than being sad it is funny.

The actors are all perfect in their roles. Anthony Trombetta is great as Alfred Packer. Packer is very naïve and a little stupid, but also very genuine and sweet. Trombetta does a great job of getting this across. The standout song for him is “Shpadoinkle”, a very upbeat and optimism song about the day he expects to have. The use of made up words and strange metaphors provides half the humor were the other half comes from the certainty that everything will go wrong for him.

Rebecca Whitcher plays Polly Pry the reporter that convinces Packer to tell his story. Polly Pry has a much more direct storyline than most of the other characters starting out very cynical but slowly being drawn into his story. As she falls for him she gains her own sense of optimism. Whitcher does a great job of showing this transformation while also capitalizing on the characters humorous potential.

The Mining group that Packer leads are all very entertaining in their own right. Kyle Macdonald plays Shannon Wilson Bell the organizer of the group. In many ways Bell seems to be the most normal and stable member of the group. He is a deeply faithful man who only wants to build a church. Macdonald plays the role with a quite simple dignity, but as time goes on and the situation gets more and more dire Bell begins to show a much darker side and due to the nature of the play this is where Macdonald ability’s as a comic actor shine through. He has very great comic timing and is also very good at physical comedy. Ryan McCallion plays Israel Swan the group’s most optimistic member. McCallion does a great job portraying the characters relentlessly cheerful attitude. One of the best moments not only for his character but for the play as a whole is when they are trapped in a freezing cold winter and he decides that the best solution to their problem is to build a snowman. His rendition of his song “Let’s Build A Snowman” is filled with joy that is entirely inappropriate for the situation. Lee Malanchuk Plays the slightly insane James Humphrey. He does a great job of portraying the characters somewhat unhinged manner. Colin Miln plays George “California” Noon the groups youngest member. Miln’s performance is great because the character is obsessed with sex and Miln does a good job of portraying this but he also does a great portraying the fact that the character is still very young. He adds a wide eyed innocence to the role which adds a lot to the character. Carolyn Westberg plays Frank Miller a grouchy butcher who reluctantly joins the group. She plays the role with an admirable mix of sarcasm and rage. She also makes a great straight man to the other characters as her incredulity at their stupidity is wonderful to behold.

The miners run into a group of trappers who end up as there enemy’s. The group is led by Jason Westover as Frenchy Cabazon. He is great in the role, a chuckling cruel and thourally nasty man who is still extremely funny due to his over-the-top nature. He leads his fellow trappers in the “Trapper Song” a wild and boastful song about the trapping life. The song showcases exactly what is great about the character: he is boastful, cruel and nasty, but he is so over the top that he becomes hilarious.

Doug Rutherford plays Mills the sly prosecuting lawyer with sleazy aplomb. A particularly great moment is his leading the town in the song “Hang The Bastard.” He is obviously full of smug satisfaction about Packers upcoming death.

Winluck Wong is hilarious as a obviously Japanese ninja who is trying to blend in by pretending to native. The extreme obviousness and the his constant annoyance with the other characters stupidity is what makes the role.

Dave Paquet plays the role of Crazy Ralph a madman who tells the Miners that they will not survive. This character is only in the one scene (Paquet also plays the local sheriff) but he leaves a great impression. his repeated proclamations of doom are not only humuras in how over the top they are but also because the ultimately end being correct.

Cannibal the musical was an energetic well-acted and fun musical, it was the most fun anyone can legally have with cannibalism.

Paradise

When a brilliant writer and a brilliant director work together the results can be nothing short of amazing. Patti Flather’s is the writer of the second play I ever watched, and still one of the best, The Soul Menders. Majdi Bou-Matar is the brilliant director of last year’s Body 13. The two have brought about one of the best plays of the year, and one that captures many issues that are important both in the world at large and Whitehorse in general Paradise.

The play is an ensemble piece that follows four characters. Rachel a young woman who after spending some time in Central America is brutally sexually assaulted. Upon coming home she finds that everything in her life is changing in all sorts of ways she did not expect and she begins taking drugs as an escape. Her father George is an eccentric doctor who is struggling with his upcoming divorce. His patient Wally is a former lumberjack who after an injury has become increasingly desperate to prove that he has a problem in his ear canal, and has been becoming increasingly unstable as time goes by. Khalil is a young man of Middle Eastern descent who is imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Each of these characters seeks to find some kind of humanity in the worlds various systems and find themselves stifled by them.

All of the issues of the play are very important but that would mean very little if the play was not well written. Fortunately it is. Patti Flather has always had a very deft touch for character and this play is no exception. Each of the characters feels very real, and are very sympathetic. Despite the fact that many of characters fail to understand each other in various ways and find themselves at odds none of the characters feels at all unsympathetic. You understand why the characters act in the way they do and this makes there problems seem all the more tragic.

Another really interesting element of the writing is the way that the scenes are juxtaposed with each other. In some cases when characters are going through something similar the scenes of what are happening to them occur simultaneously. At others the scenes will shift very suddenly sometimes with one of the characters from the previous scenes quickly playing a different role in another scene. A common change is for different characters to play Wally’s dog. The way that this occurs creates a unique experience.

The direction is also very well done. Majdi Bou-Matar is a very unique director with a very recognizable style. This play actually differs from many of his others in that it has a script at all. The majority of his plays are done almost entirely by improv. The freedom he gives his actors has always worked very well. there is an inherent physicality to the way the characters move. It is physical poetry.

The set design done by David Skelton is very interesting. There are bars everywhere giving the set a very oppressive atmosphere. It relates directly to how Khalil is imprisoned, but also by how all of the other characters feel imprisoned.

The actors in this play are all amazingly talented people. Pam Patel shines in the role of Rachel. There is a very powerful energy to her performance, the character is very emotional and very emotionally expressive and she does a great job at capturing that. When her character is truly happy it is impossible not to feel that happiness, by the same token it is impossible not to feel her pain at what happened to her or to feel the desperation she feels later in the play. Michael Peng does a great job as George. He really captures the characters eccentricity and hidden issues. His performance is on one hand very funny, but at the same time there is a tragedy to his character which Peng captures perfectly. Patel and Peng also have very good chemistry. The two of them feel like a real father and daughter. This can especially be seen in a scene were the two of them are looking at a bird that has flown into the birdhouse. Nicholas Cumming Is great in the role of Wally. We see his softer side in his interactions with his dog. He does a great job showing his characters frustration with the way he is treated while at the same time being very intimidating in his growing anger. Aldrin Bundoc is great in the role of Khalil he is especially impressive since his storyline is the most separated from the other characters. He has to not only show his own character arc, but also create this arc on his own through both the letters he narrates and his interactions with the guards who are not actually on stage. His performance on its own is just as impressive as the other actors. He does a superb job of capturing his characters enthusiasm and youth while also capturing the characters decent into fear anger and hopelessness.

Paradise is a powerful play that talks about some important issues while giving no easy answers. It is also a very effective and powerful character study. It deals with the issues involved in a way that pulls no punches so if you are sensitive to any of the issues you may want to give the play a pass. Otherwise this could very well be the best play of the year. It will be playing one more time tomorrow at the Yukon Arts Centre, at 8PM and then one more time at the ST. Elias Convention Centre at 7PM in Haines Junction. If you only see one play this year let it be this one.

Ralph + Lina

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Ralph and Lina is a fantastic play that is filled with joy and energy it celebrates, love, perseverance and Canada’s multiculturalism.

The play focuses on the trials and tribulations of Ralph and Lina a couple in Italy who meet when Lina starts working for Ralph’s mother. The two are immediately attracted to each other but as the war starts the two of them are forced into several chaotic situations that challenge their relationship.

The stage is very minimalistic but also very effective. One of the best decision on my opinion was to use relatively few props instead having the two actors mime the use of the items. For example there is a sewing machine that is used to great effect in a very early scene that is actually just Christina Serra making sewing noises while pretending to sew some cloths. It only adds to the plays charm.

The play only has two actors in it but that is all it needs. Dan Watson and Christina Serra are both amazing in their roles. Watson does a great job of portraying his characters eager and enthusiastic at times slightly childish character while also showing his more serious traits such as His deep abiding love for Lina, His determination to see his family and the genuine trauma he goes through in the war. Serra does an absolutely amazing job portraying both her characters very energetic and romantic personality but also the more fiery and determined side to her character. She also does a great job portraying her characters genuine grief in some of the more tragic scenes. The two actors are actually a married couple in real life which shows because the two have amazing chemistry. The two of them complement each other perfectly with very energetic performances. The acting often incorporates dance and is very physical. The two main characters are both very emotional people and the strength of the performers is how powerfully they convey these emotions. When they are happy the audience is overjoyed and when they are sad the audience is miserable.

The overall play is very funny, and filled with joy. The play deals with some very serious issues such as war, disease and the troubles of immigrants and these are given the proper amount of weight and drama. However the overall play is very joyful. The characters face major challenges, but they both prove themselves more than capable of overcoming them. The joy is in fact the plays greatest strength. It has been at least a year since a single play has brought me this much joy and months since any piece of art in general has done so. Tickets are available at the Yukon Arts Center for Thursday and Friday.

The Shape of Things

The Shape of things is a beautiful play that explores the relationship between art, Romance, and (on a much more subtle level) gender roles. It combines humour, drama, and intimacy to create a truly great production.

The play follows a somewhat nerdy and shy but sweet young college student named Adam who, after a chance encounter, begins a relationship with a flamboyant art student named Evelyn who begins to help him make some major changes in his life. His friends Jenny and Phillip react positively and negatively respectfully to these changes.

One very strong element of the piece is Rosie Stuckless’s costume designs. The costumes tell a lot about the characters; for example, I actually have known women similar (though not as extreme) to Evelyn and they dress almost identically to her. The same can be said for the costuming of Phillip and Jenny, but the character who the costuming really stands out for is Adam. As he changes throughout the play his clothes change to reflect his new personality.

One of the only problems I have is the intermission. The play works best when the audience experiences the play very viscerally and on a very emotional level, only processing it afterwards. The intermission allows the audience to process what they’ve seen on an intellectual level. Still it’s a relatively minor flaw in an otherwise nearly perfect production.

The set designed by Donald C Watt is wonderful. It is made up of plinths which are then put together in order to make various objects on the stage. It looks very artistic in the way it is built which helps illustrate the plays questions about art.

The actors are all amazing. The cast is much younger than what has been common in the previous guild years. The guilds Artistic Director Anthony Trombetta should be congratulated for finally bringing a play to Whitehorse that taps the young talent that has been here for a very long time but never really taken advantage of in previous seasons. Jeff Charles does a great job portraying Adams awkwardness, as well as his surprising wit. As the play continues he does a great job portraying the changes in his character while still being recognizable.Santana Berryman is mesmerizing in the role of Evelyn she is very charming and charismatic but the character also has a rather manipulative and vindictive side that she portrays extremely well. The chemistry between the two actors is also very good. Rowan Dunne is great as Adams former roommate and friend Phillip. He portrays the characters blunt and occasionally very unpleasant demeanor very well but, also shows the genuine insight the character sometimes finds.
Finally Andrea Bols gives a fantastic performance as Adams other friend Jenny, giving a performance that nails the characters cheerful and friendly demeanor. The play works so well because each of the characters is real, if you have gone to a college there is a high chance that you have met someone like each of these characters at least once.

The play is very interesting look into art and relationships, it works as well as it does because of how real it feels the shape of things is a very powerful play that may have an effect on those who watch it for a very long time.

The Damage Is Done

The Damage is Done is a intelligent examination of family hidden sadness and how our past can shape us while also being very funny and hopeful for the future. The play is a two person performance staring Rita Bozi who also co-wrote the play and Gabor Mate. The play is very meta in the way it unfolds. both characters are completely aware that they are in a play and addressing the audience. but as the story continues the play evolves as the two characters decide to take it in a different direction. it goes from being an attempt to deliver an essay to something more akin to a therapy. Rita begins talking more about how the history of her country formed who she is but as time goes on it begins to talk about how her relationship with her family has made her who she is. Since this is not a fictional story but, her actual family history it is very personal and the audience can’t help but be drawn in themselves. on the night I went to the show the audience was asked how they responded to the play and almost all of the audience members who talked spoke of how the play reminded them of their own experiences.

Rita Bozi is the stand out performer in this play. She plays herself and her performance is very energetic expressing the emotion she feels perfectly throughout the play, for both humorous and tragic effect. however even more impressive is how she takes on the roles of the important people in her life some of whom were men. Gabor Mate who serves as foil to all of her performances by remaining very stoic but also very empathetic.

One of the key themes of the play is that although our past does have a great effect on who we are it doesn’t mean that our lives are hopeless. The Damage is Done reflects on some very important issues in a very emotionally powerful way. Its run at the Yukon Arts Centre ends tonight but if you have any chance to catch it at any other point during its tour I highly recommend it.

Terminus

Terminus is utterly unlike any play I have seen before. It tells an amazing story of spirits, treachery, guilt and murder. The story is told by three alternating narrators, none of whom have names. They are listed in the programme as “A” “B” and “C.” Each of them performs monologues that make up an interconnected story. They tell their stories in a really fantastic way. Each of them narrates there monologue in a lyrical way reminiscent of slam poetry. The most impressive element to this is that in narrating these stories, they also have to inhabit other characters than the narrator, and are not only able to do this, but are able to keep the one character who speaks in two different characters’ stories totally consistent in their voice and mannerisms.

The set design is very simple but also very impressive. There is a web of material surrounding a small raised platform which the narrator speaks from. In a different play, this might end up being constraining. However, in this play the characters utterly dominate the small space they’re given, their words reaching out and grabbing the audience.

The acting is absolutely amazing. “A” is played by Sarah Dodd. “A” is a guilt-ridden mother and teacher who, upon hearing that one of her former students is pregnant and in a lot of trouble, rushes to help her. Dodd really captures the characters sadness at how events in her past have turned out, while also doing a great job at showing the characters’ anger and consternation at some of the events that are unfolding. Although the characters’ sadness is more apparent in some scenes, there are a lot of scenes where her grief is still present but is more subtle and buried. She is also a great physical actress. This can be seen in the parts of the play where she is attacked by the other characters, and her mimed reactions to the physical attack are extremely realistic, despite the fact that she is alone onstage.

Nicola Elbro plays “B”, a lonely young woman who, after going to an ill-fated party, befriends a demon. Elbro gives an energetic performance as the events surrounding her become more and more fantastical. She really captures the bitterness that her character feels at the beginning of the story and the newfound joy she finds as it goes on, as well as her fear as events that are out of her control take place. She also performs a secondary character, the demonic soul searching for its treacherous body. The voice that she uses for the character, as well the fantastic dialogue, make the soul a very memorable character.

This paragraph contains a minor spoiler if you have read the advertising for the play, you will already know about this, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Adam Lazarus plays “D”, a frustrated loner who has sold his soul to the devil in exchange for a beautiful singing voice but has found that he is still too shy to use it. Now being filled with frustration and bitterness, he has become a traveling serial killer who chiefly murders women. His performance is especially compelling because when the character first appears he seems timid, even sweet. When he reveals his true self to the audience, it is truly terrifying. His mixture of psychotic glee and the occasional, almost childlike petulance, makes him both entertaining and terrifying. What makes the character especially interesting is that despite his insane nature, he has moments of clarity about how the world around him that make him doubly fascinating.

Terminus is a high-quality, lyrical urban fantasy with a beautiful script and wonderful acting. It will play for two more days. You should buy a ticket at the earliest opportunity.