Pi Theatre's Visions Of Vancouver - An Evening With The Twilight ZoneThursday, October 06, 2011
The opening performance of four short plays, the same four actors and one director at a brand new venue would be enough of a draw for anybody who enjoys good theatre. For me (at first) only three elements (director Richard Wolfe, playwright Kevin Loring and actress Carmen Aguirre were enough to lure me on an evening when the plays were competing with a nearby "opening performance" of the Vancouver Canucks.
But I am happy to report that those first three elements also came with other stuff and that was a most pleasant surprise.
Pi Theatre’s Visions of Vancouver, held at CBC’s Studio 700 tonight was directed by Pi Theatre Artistic Director Richard Wolfe (always quiet, gracious and warm) and it featured four actors, Carmen Aguirre, Patrick Keating, Jennifer Mawhinney and Shaker Paleja. The plays were The Bridge by Michele Riml & Michael St. John Smith, Elevate by Adrienne Wong, The Dead Line by Dennis Foon and The Thin Veneer by Kevin Loring.
True to their roots in the avant-garde these four plays will be available as podcasts in late 2011. Does that sound strange? No! These four plays (why you might lose a tad in not seeing the faces) were done in the tradition of old CBC Radio plays and Rosemary my wife and I could have just as well kept our eyes shut during the performance without missing a beat.
While I am not enamoured with the prodigious re-concreting of the old CBC into the new CBC the venue, Studio 700 still gave the impression of being in the centre of a large city where everything happens. The site of the huge TV studio (with its equally large plate glass windows) and all the lights and aluminum prepared me for the whiff of science fiction of the delightful The Dead Line where Shaker Paleja, who has made a fortune in real estate (buying up in Little Mountain before the seas rose and enveloped most of Vancouver in a not so distant future). The play points into the direction of what anybody can do when phone sex no longer excites. How about phone sex with the very real, but dead Marilyn?
The other three plays all, refreshingly, were about the city where we live. While all four plays might not wash in a small theatre in Vermont, it is enough for me that finally in a play, unlike all those US films about Seattle, etc, Vancouver is our Vancouver.
Elevate gave me a glimpse of why I might not want to live in any of those tall condos in downtown Vancouver. In fact as we navigated north on the Cambie Street Bridge, the new B.C. Place Stadium loomed like a combination of a Star Wars spaceship and a scary metallic black widow. The lights and the huge TV display screens shone on the nearby condos. I would think that their residents will be experiencing day for night for the next while!
Elevate had the most scary Patrick Keating laying down the law on all the possible infractions a resident of such a condo can break. The consequences of these infractions were dire, indeed. In a career where Carmen Aguirre has played from Frida Kahlo to a possible future appearance as Tina Modotti, Elevate had her as a most authentic yapping dog.
The Bridge was all about the travails of those unlucky enough to live in the North Shore and who must navigate its two bridges. Thanks to the CBC Second Narrows is no longer that but the ominous sounding Ironworkers Memorial Bridge (there is a police incident on the north lanes). This play brings into the mix not only one of these ironworkers (this one much alive) but Malcolm Lowry, a young couple in a car about to have a divorce over whipping cream, and a Native Canadian cop played so well by a non yapping Carmen Aguirre.
Loring’s Thin Veneer, after all that I have read about the hockey riots to the point of boring banality, put a fresh take on it. This is truly a radio play that I hope to hear again soon. It is a vision of Vancouver that while putting an uncertainty into its future, it does offer us a plausible positive resolution.
In fact as Rosemary and I navigated home there were no crowds. Perhaps the game was not over. But then as Shaker Paleja said so often in The Thin Veneer, “ We lost, we were let down.” And yes the Canucks lost. Those who braved a Vancouver evening at the theatre were the winners.