Mi verso es de un verde claro - My verse is light greenThursday, September 18, 2014
Only a few days before Rosemary and I went to the opening (an Arts Club Theatre production at the Stanley) of Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles, we saw Bette Davis in the 1938 film Old Maid. In the film Davis is magically transformed from a beautiful young woman with a future to bitter old woman without one.
The first thought in my mind after seeing 4000 Miles was to watch how actress (I am old fashioned) Nicola Cavendish’s Vera would walk back from backstage for the walk down or final bow (there was no curtain for a curtain call). Would she hobble in short steps or walk normally? Was she acting being an over 90 widow or was she the real thing?
I must report, and pleasant it is, that Nicola Cavendish walks normally so the good acting is just that, good acting.
The performance brought to mind another superb play that I saw in 2011 at the Arts Club Theatre’s Review Stage on Granville Island. The play was Another Home Invasion, a one woman show that featured Nicola Lipman playing a very old woman sitting in a wing chair having to decide where to place her Alzheimer’s afflicted husband. At curtain call (no curtain I believe) Nicola Lipman became at least 20 years younger!It was as virtuoso acting as was Cavendish kicking shoes and bags in her way.
It doesn’t take too much noticing to know that unless you go to some far-out Fringe Festival that many theatre goers in Vancouver are rarely under 30. At age 72 I feel I may be slightly in the upper fringes of that theatre going public.
4000 Miles and Another Home Invasion are plays of the same coin except that one side of it is brutal and scary in its realism of the problem we all face in getting old. That’s Another Home Invasion. 4000 Miles is a more benign (but not any less realistic) of that problem. It achieves it through laughs and through the warmth of the two principals, Nicola Cavendish as Vera and cyclist/actor Nathan Barrett as her grandson.
We can perhaps credit director Roy Surette or the unnamed dramaturge that decided to cast Agnes Tong as Leo’s almost one-night-stand Amanda. I doubt the original play cast her as a Chinese woman. While giving ethnic actors in Vancouver some sort of equal chance, this Arts Club Theatre casting was an inspired one. Amanda was a good (and most funny) foil for Leo’s soon-to-be-ex girlfriend Bec (Ella Simon). Simon’s very gestures and stance added to making her awkward (as she is supposed to be) in one heck of a good performance.
As we left my Rosemary (who does not like much of anything, with few exceptions) told me, “I wasn’t wowed.” I don’t believe all plays have to have a wow factor. 4000 Miles accompanied me home with the comfort that the evils of getting old are over blown and I can always go to Google when I paraphrase (not exactly) Vera’s comment, “I hate it when my words go away.”
The music used was American folk music of the 60s, my era. I was plunged into a wave of nostalgia. It was the music of a young lefty Vera.
When grandmother and grandson toke up, I do believe that there has been some change in perception between the writing of the play in 2011 and the more liberal views of 2014. I can only assert that I don’t smoke pot because it makes me stutter.
Set and costume design by Barbra Matis will bring my only initial beef (there is a quick and most available solution). My Rosemary commented, “What a busy set!” Indeed the set occupied the full width of what a few might remember was originally a movie house.
This meant, and we knew this in advance, that dialogue on house left (we were sitting in house right) would be hard to discern. And it was. My wife thinks she has a small hearing problem but it is probably not as she knows I have an uncommonly sensitive ability to hear very well. And I lost some of the dialogue.
I believe that there may be two solutions of which one of them is already available. On its website the Arts Club has this: Frequently Asked Questions. An in that is this:
Q. Do you offer hearing-assistance devices?
A. The Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage and the Granville Island Stage are equipped with infrared listening systems provided free of charge for our hearing-impaired guests. We have a limited supply of headsets; please reserve in advance by calling 604.687.1644.
I inquired at Arts Club Box Office and I was told that the headsets are not really compatible with hearing aids. But for those who do not have hearing aids this could work wonders.
The second solution (probably expensive) would be to hire an acoustic engineer who just might install transparent panels suspended from the ceiling as the ones at the Orpheum.
All in all it was a pleasant evening at the theatre. A pleasant evening that will soon lead me into the expected wow factor of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan directed by Kim Collier and with the acting participation of that (and I can truly say world-class without any hyperbole) wonder that Meg Roe is. This play will open October 23.