EDMONTON – Here you are, lost in the dark forest of top-10 lists, impaled on the thorny pines of nostalgia, dazed into submission by the toxic fumes of cultural compost.
The whole point of live theatre, in a stage-struck town like this one, is that the post-Yule period doesn’t have to be a bleak and insular time of self-denial and lamentation, ceaseless debate on the snow removal budget, depressive reality TV shows with dubious premises. In theatre terms, it’s only intermission! You have prospects for nights out, my friends.
In the spirit of anticipation, we’re here to assist you in perusing the imminent pleasures on Edmonton stages, with a small selection of possibilities for theatrical excursions.
Testing, one, two … Edmonton’s most adventurous and unpredictable indie company (their Christmas offering was a Sartre show!), Surreal SoReal Theatre has us all wearing headphones for The Genius Code, to be unveiled some time in May at the C103 theatre. The multimedia technology isn’t some design add-on; it’s built right into a dark narrative in which an obsessive and solitary DJ manipulates his best friends into falling in love and staying together, stalks them aurally, creates from the raw materials of their lives.
Testing, three, four …The Maggie Tree, which regularly attracts some of Edmonton’s most non-conventional talents, is working on a new creation, led by co-artistic directors Kristi Hansen and Vanessa Sabourin in cahoots with actor/dancer/choreographer playwright Amber Borotsik and playwright Jill Connell (Hroses). As Hansen describes Monstrosities, April 17 to 27 at the Varscona, it “focuses on three different women inspired by real-life ladies from history and from our imaginations who live with the title ‘freak.’”
Embrace the dark: (a) Horror clowns Mump and Smoot, those Ummonian masters of the macabre who combine gore and guilelessness in a wholly original way, première their first new work in four years in the Theatre Network season, April 10 to 27. Or (b) the return of Nevermore, Catalyst’s morbid 2009 musical fantasia on the famously death-centric life of Edgar Allan Poe, reimagined as one of his own horror tales, Feb. 15 to March 1 at the Westbury Theatre.
We haven’t seen them (on an Edmonton stage) lately: (a) Bruce McCulloch, one of the famously irreverent Kids In The Hall sketch comedy troupe, was at one time an Edmonton/Calgary kid who discovered such delights as rock music, improv, satire, screenwriting, bourbon … and theatre. Edmonton audiences know that his solo stage plays, Trapped On A Lawnchair, Jazz Stenographers, The Two-Headed Roommate, and Slightly Bigger Cities among them, have a nose for the grotesque that turns ordinary surreal. McCulloch is back on his home turf with his latest one-man stage concoction Young Punk Drunk, at the Arden on Jan. 27. (b) Conni Massing, an Edmonton playwright of wry wit and a history with Workshop West. That’s where her new romantic comedy (with a twist) premières March 28 to April 13. The Invention of Love explores the tensions between a daughter — middle-aged, professional, resolutely single — and her elderly mother, who falls in love again with a man she dated six decades earlier.
Embrace your intimacy issues: Get a ticket for part two of Theatre Yes’s National Elevator Project — eight more playlets going up again in Workshop West’s Canoe Festival Jan. 23 to Feb. 2. Experience upwardly mobile theatre up close — and fast, five minutes or less — in a selection of downtown elevators. Theatre Yes, evidently very hard to say No to, has goaded theatres across the country into commissioning five-minute plays. Part one was fascinatingly diverse; I also discovered a passel of downtown buildings whose doorways I had never darkened.
The golden age indeed: How can you not be madly attracted to the prospect of a romantic comedy screwball, with original music, about the making of a movie musical in the Golden Age of Hollywood? A car chase onstage? A transcontinental train journey? Tom Wood’s Make Mine Love stars the fizzy (and fearless) Rebecca Northan of Blind Date fame and the Citadel’s seductive leading man John Ullyatt as mega-wattage Hollywood star and down-at-heels ex-Broadway matinee idol, respectively. It premières as the grand finale of the Citadel season May 10 to June 1.
Theatre as nightmare: OK, it’s possible that not everyone feels this way, but I’m a sucker for the comedy of backstage chaos. Mistakes Were Made, by Craig Wright (who wrote for Six Feet Under and Lost, and whose stage work has long been championed by Shadow Theatre), sounds like a vintage example of this kind of fun. John Hudson’s Shadow production runs April 30 to May 18 at the Varscona. Glenn Nelson stars as a harried, hustling, minor league theatre producer frantically trying to put together a deal for a new Broadway epic about the French Revolution, and unravelling on various phone lines in the process.
Whaaaaat the …? (The Irresistible Premise): Of the plethora of examples, here are a couple for your consideration. One is Send In The Girls’s A Bronte Burleseque. The troupe that addressed themselves to the wives of Henry VIII last time out unlaces the corseted 19th century literati at the Roxy (Jan. 23 to Feb. 2). Or what about the unlikeliness of culling a musical directly from Craigslist entries? Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata arrives in the Citadel’s Club (Feb. 5 to 23).
Pour la première fois (a debut liaison for Edmonton theatre): One night Brian Dooley and Gianna Vacirca perform en français as a fracturing couple, the next in English, in this co-venture by Northern Light Theatre and L’UniThéâtre (March 4 to 16 at La Cité francophone) of Jeffrey Hatcher’s noirish thriller Mercy of a Storm (De plein fouet).
You can’t stop the beat: Grant MacEwan University brings us a highly unusual, much-acclaimed 2005 Broadway musical, The Light in the Piazza, by composer Adam Guettel (Richard Rodger’s grandson) and the celebrated American playwright Craig Lucas (March 26 to April 5). Musical theatre lovers have plenty to savour this season. Among offerings are West Side Story from Broadway Across Canada at the Jube (Feb. 18 to 23); Mary Poppins, catchy of tune and visuals, at the Citadel (March 15 to April 20); A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (April 2 to 12), early and hysterical Sondheim at the Walterdale; Jerry Herman’s Mack and Mabel (in concert at the Varscona Jan. 9 to 19) from The Plain Janes. And the Mayfield backcombs itself into the heights with Hairspray (April 18 to June 15).