Thursday, 20 November 2014

Speed The Plow tills its turf terrifically 

Mamet backdrop : In an uncited interview from back in the day, playwright David Mamet offered up some insights into what his plays, generally, are all about : "Here's what happens in a play. You get involved in a situation where something is unbalanced. If nothing's unbalanced, there's no reason to have a play. If Hamlet comes home from school and his dad's not dead and asks him if he's had a good time, it's boring. But if something's unbalanced, it must be returned to order." Something unbalanced. That is always what David Mamet scripts try to focus on. The people. The times. The culture. The disequilibrium inherent in all three.

Considered one of his lesser scripts, STP is nevertheless quite popular as a re-mount. As you read this, Lindsay Lohan (sic) plays the ingenue fill-in secretary Karen at the Playhouse Theatre in London, UK until month's end. (Her first stage play -- mixed reviews.)  STP is popular perhaps because it has many of the Mamet tropes from his other plays like his signature piece Glengarry Glen Ross : AK-47 clips of cutting dialogue; awakening & betrayal; re-birth -- but often in the same old stew -- by characters hungrier for power than they are for enlightenment or release.

Set-types often populate David Mamet scripts. The naif. The realist. The cynic. Then there's the "temporarily lapsed-cynic". Usually a pretext anyway of a romantic on the loose -- sex just about for sure. Nowhere are these types more prevalent than in Hollywood. F. Scott Fitzgerald knew that truth intimately. He became one. It killed him.

Written in 1980, STP's middle-age greying around the temples and its belly paunch are starting to show. Are debates whether Hollywood should produce art -vs- sell schlock to fatbutts all that relevant any more? E.g. name the last truly intelligent drama since Lolita or The Last Picture Show that you can recall issuing from that place... [lol].

Plot overview :  Recently promoted to head of production at a major Hollywood studio, Bobby Gould is charged with finding suitable scripts for his boss to "green-light". The idea, usually, is for the studio to make money. Enter his associate Charlie Fox, a lesser mortal in the celluloid capitol. He has been approached by a marquee actor named Doug Brown -- think Brad Pitt here -- who loved the rock-'em sock-'em prison buddy-boy script Fox presented to him. Brown wants Gould's studio to produce it, not his own nor a competitor "across the street". Fox sees stars & $$$-signs & a catapult up Hollywood's success ladder for himself once the credits roll and his name is near the top. Being a Producer makes you a somebody.

Meanwhile Gould is in the midst of a "courtesy read" of a novel he disses because it comes from "an eastern sissy writer" -- all about the cumulative effects of nuclear exposure called Radiation. Think of Jailbreak! -vs- The Power of Now. Which should be marketed as the studio's next blockbuster ? These are the choices facing BG on his first day on the job. As Karen notes later, the buddy film is sheer "degradation, despicable, meaningless -- the sex, the titillation, the violence", all of it. Gould responds : "We make the same thing everyone else made last year, that's what they want." 

With frat-boy snickers, Fox and Gould nudge-nudge-wink-wink over Karen. Fox bets Gould he can't seduce her. Gould figures he can. The winner's booty will be $500. Gould asks Karen to do her own courtesy read of the novel and bring it -- and her opinion of it as a box office candidate -- to his mansion that evening. She does her bit. He does his. They do each other. While he's $500 richer out of it all, young Karen thinks on his couch that she has convinced him the "sissy" piece Radiation is the one he should now promote.

The third scene is where Mamet resolves the "unbalanced" aspects of the story so far. Again a telling insight from an interview : "The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always 'What does the protagonist want?' That's what drama is. It comes down to that. It's not about theme, it's not about ideas, it's not about setting, but what the protagonist wants."

Quintessential Mamet : In Scene 3 of STP we get line-after-line of juiced-up punchy dialogue from the out-fox'd Fox, even some fisticuffs before it's all over.  Recall Mamet's words up-top : "...if something's unbalanced, it must be returned to order."

In this scene the "temporarily lapsed-cynic" Gould protests that Karen has opened his heart to God and the inevitable End of Days. A.k.a. The Rapture, from the Book of Revelation, thanks to cell phones and microwave ovens and general nuclear-trickery all 'round. Thus, he says, after decades in the movie business "I found something that I can believe in." And that's why he's going to green-light the Radiation script instead of Fox's ballsy-buddy flick.

Fox explodes : "You're a chippy, a whore, you think because you work with your legs you're a ballerina!" Gould shoots back that Fox's jibes at him are just words. "It's only words unless they're true," Fox snarks in reply. "I believe in the words of that book," Gould defends himself, meekly. "I believe in the Yellow Pages, but that doesn't mean I'd make them into a movie!" Fox spits out with venom. True vintage Mamet, all of this.

Character take : Strong, strong performances by all the actors, but especially Mitch and Murray Productions Artistic Director Aaron Craven as the sycophant bully-boy Charlie Fox, the "realist" of the play. From the get-go his character's manic agitation, hyper-ventilation and sheer physicality were 100% compelling. His Hollywood buzzwords, meanwhile, are more spit than spoken. Each zinger was glib, nasty and sardonic.

Craig Erickson as Bobby Gould puts every bit as much gusto! into his role as Craven. Gould's character, however, is Mamet's least persuasive part in STP. His "conversion" to Karen's God-of-Rapture after she beds him was less than fully believable at any point. The flip-flop from braggadocio to wimpster overnight was a stretch, even if intended as satire. Followed by his turnabout back to what the studio expects of him. Utterly predictable, all this, no question. "Balance" has been restored. The protagonist figures out what he wants most of all.

Kayla Deorksen as Karen is an I found it! bumper sticker Christian. Mamet gives her a few doe-in-the-headlights soliloquies in Scene 2. Deorksen performs them blessedly. She prays God stands behind her during her sex-toss with Gould so she can advance her L.A. career in His name. All she wants is a bit part during the production of Radiation. She worships the novel's words, after all, almost as much as she does His Own. But when she confesses her "wickedness" at play's end like a Salem witch, her role as the pathetic but woefully abused naif tossed into a gnarly garden of vipers was all the more poignant.

In 2014 this is not groundbreaking stuff, thematically. Power. Wealth. Stiff egos. Women as sex objects. Sex objects as power seekers. But it's the crispness, the pace (the pace, the pace, ever the pace!) of David Mackay's direction of his cast that makes this a whipcrack performance. STP stings with delight after delight! both in dialogue and stage action.

Production values : I disagree with Mr. Mackay when he says in the Director's program note: "It may not be everyone's dream, but if you had a chance to pitch a Hollywood movie and procure all the earnings, swag and entitlement that could follow -- how far would you be willing to bend your moral integrity to achieve that aim?" Really? Naw. Bobby Gould has a moment's lapse as a scarred and hidebound Hollywood cynic is all. No true personal integrity or life-values beyond the traditional boys' club trophies of power, wealth and stiff egos noted above. That, however, is but a quibble.

David Roberts' set of Gould's film studio office, stage left, contrasts nicely with his 60's Bauhaus living room ensemble, stage right. (Only wee catch was the paint bucket in his office from Benny Moore. The French word peinture in capital letters jumps out. A quick trip to Neilson's Lumber in Point Roberts would have produced a proper Yankee prop.)

Lighting designer Gerald King backlit well indeed the moody Hollywood photo panels provided by Shimon Karmel. They reflect the times perfectly, particularly the full-on shot of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church on Sunset Boulevard out Bobby G's office window. That's how I remember the place from my time living there in the mid-60's. Only the circular disc Atlantic Records building near Hollywood & Vine was a.w.o.l., alas, from this charming snapshot of a lost epoch. 

Who gonna like : If you're a career Mamet-junkie like me, this production will thrill and excite you no end despite its random warts. If you don't know Mamet much but want a real "up close and personal" 80 minutes of verbal swashbuckling, STP may be -- no, will be -- the best bang for your buck so far this season in Vancouver. Who can resist well-executed target-practice at set-types from Hollywood at any time? Great viewing, this, both for its straight stuff and its satirical barbs. And the Studio 16 stage @ 1551 West 7th is the perfect intimate room for such an evening's engagement.

P.S. note : The title.  Speed The Plow.  Mamet once explained it thus :  "I remembered the saying that you see on a lot of old plates and mugs : 'Industry produces wealth, God speed the plow.' This, I knew, was a play about work and about the end of the world, so Speed The Plow was perfect because not only did it mean 'work', it meant having to 'plow under and start over again'."

Particulars : To November 29, 2014 @ Studio 16, 1551 West 7th Avenue between Granville and Fir.

Playwright David Alan Mamet. Produced by Mitch and Murray Productions. Director David Mackay. Lighting Designer Gerald King. Set Designer David Roberts. Stage Manager Breanne Jackson, Publicist Katherine Brodsky. Photography Shimon Karmel. Production Manager Michael Coen Chase. Technical Director Colin Carruthers.

Featured actors : Craig Erickson. Aaron Craven. Kayla Deorksen.


Thursday, 13 November 2014

Big Ears Teddy : meet Broken Sex Doll

Some backdrop : For most North American War Gen's and Boomers, particularly in religious-y households, sex in the 1950's was simply not talked about. The facts of life were pretty well left to us children to discover for ourselves. Awkwardly. Trial and error. Over-&-over. For many, well past middle age it is said. Discussion? Probing analysis? Moral pulse-taking? Well, uh, no. Just this : "No premature preggers -- proceed at your peril "

So it helps to know that writer / director / producer Andy Thompson, originally from BC's Bible Belt in Chilliwack, was born in 1970. A Gen Xer. Numbers don't lie : there's a 25-year gap in our birthdates and life experiences. It also helps to know this about Mr. Thompson, from Wiki : "After graduating from high school with honours in physics and math, Thompson chose to study arts in college before committing to a career in engineering. This led to his decision to become an actor." Terrific terse bio, that.

Context after 2 weeks of Big Ears Teddy :  

When : 2136.  

Where: Virtual City, Planet Earth.  

Who : Real, sentient beings who fondulate, incessantly, in every imaginable position with every sex-sensitive digit and orifice of their beings. And do so with robots. To music (15 songs in all).

What : A new techno-trick known as "feelies" has been developed. Not 2-dimensional "selfies" snapped off iPhones, nosireee. Feelies allow folks to voyeur others' real-life experiences in total -- hear them, see them, smell them, taste them, even touch them. Sort of like Hustler magazine downloaded and printed in four dimensions including ersatz-flesh. "Holy sniggers, Batman, high-tech porn rocketed into the twilight zone!" What could be better than taking life-in-hand, pulsing and throbbing, and doing it until death do us come. Over and over and over again.

Why : 18 months back Thompson told Andrea Warner of the Georgia Straight -- "I'm interested in a type of world where all sexuality is fine, there are no rules. It's kind of like anarchy." And in reflecting on such a proposition, Thompson mused further : "What if technology continues to advance at this rapid rate : are we, the people, advancing with technology? What will happen over a century if we advance technologically but stay the same or go backwards morally?" Too abstract? Try this then : "My script and the content is so dirty and filthy -- this real gutteral sexuality that's brought to the surface in this anarchic sci-fi future society -- and it's sung so beautifully, the experience is completely unique."

So. In the context of this year's other musical crotch-y productions -- Urinetown and Avenue Q both recently reviewed here as well -- certainly BSD is aligned with them structurally and thematically. Whether in light of that ex-CBC fellow Big Ears Teddy and his  sexual peccadilloes -- and the two weeks of constant media-mashing that followed about BDSM (for you newbies to such stuff that stands for "bondage-domination-sado-masochism") -- well, it's up to potential BSD viewers to decide whether Big Ears Teddy will queer the show at The Cultch's box office or not.

Plot overview : Notionally, this is a "love" story. Between man and beast. Er, android. All about Daryl, BSD's hero, who makes feelies of himself and the animated mannequin Ginger whose mechanical vag is pure magic. So we're told. And listen to. And watch. No smell detected. No touching, surely. The antagonist is a chap named King, Ginger's ex-service-provider. He plots to disengage Daryl from his love object and those magic plastic loins he's still jealous of. 

Here's a quicky primer on the play's plotline :

Daryl Brown (Benjamin Elliott) is a porn aficionado, consumer, producer, actor. He discovers a way for viewers to feel his sense of touch when they download his vids on interactive YouTube. Android Ginger 5000 (Chelsea Rose Tucker) is his chosen partner for a no-holds-barred no-non-sense skin-to-skin escapade "It's Amazing". The show goes viral on the weekly "Feelie" charts. Ginger's ex- in making horny porny is the King (Neezar Joseph Elferzeli). When "It's Amazing" catapults Daryl and Ginger to be Feelie's top guns, King explodes. He spends the balance of BSD enlisting the aid of his sexually ambiguous Mom (Greg Armstrong-Morris), his sexually ambiguous manservant James (Joel Ballard) and Lars his android-techie (GA-M as well) to neuter Brown by deprogramming Ginger and rendering her lifeless. She will dump Daryl by dint of her unceremonious deposit into the town dump. Ginger solicits help from three other broken sex dolls to thwart King & Co.'s plans. End-of-story.

When BSD debut'd in Spring 2013, most critics raved that that year's version might set a new standard for dramatic production in Vancouver. A sex musical among androids? Well, "not quite ready for prime time" I'd say. Unless one suspends one's disbelief in space age proportion -- say as far off the map as the Rosetta comet landing this week 500 million klix away.

But on the other hand...

So let's do just that. Let's disbelieve big-time and view BSD from the vantage point of Comet 67P. Forget the sci-fi sex-plot shenanigans. They're hilarious to Gen X / Gen Y audiences, no doubt, based on opening night responses. But at its core BSD is all about its staging, its choreography, its lighting and its sound design. 

And nevermind that it's completely conservative in its social out-takes : when Ginger rams Daryl with a broom you-know-where, the next scenes are all about how anal sex renders him impotent. Homophobic? Couldn't tell you. But I gotta hunch.

Then there's the role of women, the fleshy one [Mom] as well as the mannequins. (A) The women are all caucasoids, not a blush of racial colour to be seen on stage. (B) They all act like boy-servants. (C) That they "just want to be loved" to exercise their womanly power is hardly avant garde thinking. 

But. But. As a production, BSD is adazzle with excitement, brilliant light-&-sound, boundless energy, and two-tier staging that is clever-plus. BSD at times threatens to disappear into a theatric black hole given its plotline and characters.  But I conclude it's a case where the sum of the whole nowhere equals its individual parts, to warp the old expression. Because many of the individual parts are terrific -- first-rate entertainment well, well worth seeing -- even if your disbelief, like mine, is about as distant as Comet 67P. 

Top marks to so many : Creator Andy Thompson snared uberkind Anton Lipovetsky to create 15 songs for the show. He took to the challenge with verve and juice. Interesting to this ear, however, was how much his numbers reminded me of the Jesus Christ Superstar stuff I used to play to my high school classes in the early 70's. Not the kind of contemporary and experimental cuts one hears on CBC's iconic radio show The Signal with Laurie Brown. Still, very capably done and for which Lipovetsky last year won a Jessie award for Outstanding Original Composition.

Perhaps not quite enough can be said for lighting designer Jeff Harrison, sound designer Brian Linds, and video designer Corwin Ferguson. Their combined efforts along with Andy Thompson's clever cave-man set and its Laugh-In windows (that were popular the year Thompson was born) created a stage space brimming with bounce and pizzazz. Drew Facey's Jessie-winning costumes with the Danier peter-pouches and butt-straps for King and Brown were a giggle. As were the android get-ups particularly for the "other" broken dolls with their shock neon wigs.

The choreography by principals Vanessa Goodman and Jane Osborne of The Contingency Plan dance collective was a "kick" starting instantly with the troupe clicking artfully with the opener "I do not like my life -- I'd rather see the world through your eyes". More delight later on with the androids demanding "No More!" of being treated like, well, androids. TCP's blocking both on the 2nd tier and mainstage simultaneously was visually snappy. 

Very strong performances by Elliott and Tucker in the lead roles, no question. But to this critic Ian Rozylo as Billy Crumble almost stole the show for his animated antics, while Dustin Freeland as the Doc and Joe was but a half-pace behind. Delightful turns by both Armstrong-Morris as Mom and Lars plus Joel Ballard as King's aide James well.

Who gonna like : As indicated, this is a "not for everyone" schtick. The endless bumpy-grindy stuff lost in repetition what its original cleverness caught. At least to this eye. But still, the parody of krappy porn flix (I've seen one or two...) and the underlying satire / slapstick around stupid sex scenarios we've all been subject to made up for the over-done-ness of the whole idea. Want to see staging that grabs you where it hurts, BSD will work for you. If in-your-face sexuality is not your bag, you might prefer to take in a re-run of Doc Martin or Downton Abbey instead. Just sayin'.

Particulars : November 12-22, 2014 @ The Cultch's newest venue, the refurbished York Theatre, 639 Commercial Drive (next to Nick's).

Writer / Director / Producer Andy Thompson. Original Music Anton Lipovetsky. Choreography The Contingency Plan. Costume Designer Drew Facey. Lighting Designer Jeff Harrison. Set Designer Andy Thompson. Musical Direction Courtney Ennis. Sound Design Brian Linds. Video Design Corwin Ferguson. Prosthetics Designer Tomasz Sosnowski.

Featured actors : Benjamin Elliott. Chelsea Rose Tucker. Neezar Joseph Elferzeli. Greg Armstrong-Morris. Dustin Freeland. Ian Rozylo. Joel Ballard. Alex Gullason. Adriana Simone Ravalli. Ranae Miller. Jacob Waike [Daryl understudy].


Thursday, 6 November 2014

A musical you just might pee your pants over

Script history overview : The in-your-face title of the script Urinetown points to a place originally located somewhere between 1984 and Brave New World. With a story put to music and dance to boot. 

The premise is quick-&-dirty : a water shortage from an extensive drought results in a government fiat that prohibits private toilets. They are replaced by mandatory pay-toilets throughout the unnamed city. Purpose is to conserve water for drinking, irrigation, life-support stuff. 

Protests mount against "Urine Good Company" (ha-ha), the biffy-mega-corp that for years has controlled the city's sewage flow. Lots of song-&-dance later, the wells dry up anyway. Just as the wells are doing today throughout the San Joaquin Valley in California and in Australia. The 2001 original production opened just a week after 9/11. Given America's shaken confidence in itself, that production stood probably more for its social contract messages than for its madcap silliness. The latter for obvious reasons was not much in vogue that September.

The current show is a remount of Firehall's 2006 Jessie Award winner for Donna Spencer in Outstanding Direction, also winning Outstanding Production. In 2014, Urinetown is totally boffo, slapschtick laugh-a-minute irreverance without one iota of serious environmental advocacy, much as its company might like to think otherwise. But more on that to come.

With music / lyrics by Mark Hollman and book / lyrics by Greg Kotis, Urinetown was nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 2002 and took home three statuettes : best musical book; musical score; direction of a musical. Given the satire about democracy's oppressive demagogues, oligarchs and bureaucrats -- plus the pee-&-poo factor -- little wonder the show has become a favourite on college campuses. But U. ain't just for college kids. Not by a long shot. Jaded wizen'd pensioners will delight in it perhaps even more. 

Why, you might well ask, this subject with its pungent title as material for a stage musical ? Seems Hollman and Kotis had done comic improv sketches together at storefront stages back in the day in Chicago, renowned home of Second City : "We were always writing stuff about a world that was a little cockeyed, that something was a little wrong," Hollman revealed in a 2013 interview with K. S. Driscoll. In the next breath Kotis added a bit ruefully : "Theatres continue to fight for the audience, and we're selling a specific kind of goofball, gonzo do you make a musical 'relevant'?"

In light of the power and prominence of big ticket musicals from the 60's and 70's, one way to make a show 'relevant' is to indulge in self-referential mockery. E.g. these days who doesn't like to take random shots at Broadway middle-brow musicals such as the stuff of uberproducer Andrew Lloyd Webber, for example? Maybe not quite as madcap as Briton Monty Python's Eric Idle achieved in Spamalot (BLR 140515), Urinetown nevertheless reflects a "lunatic dash through the [angst-ridden] American experience at the turn of the millenium", critic Scott Miller noted in 2007.

By way of response and reprieve, satiric live theatre and the "reality" t.v. supplied by the likes of Jon Stewart on The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report began to emerge. Also plays built on a self-mocking ironic and neurotic worldview, even one with puppets : Avenue Q (BLR 141022).

Plot quicky :  Urinetown's pay-to-pee toilet musical features Caldwell B. Cladwell as its arch-villain, the entrepreneur who owns all the city's pay toilets. Cladwell owns it all and isn't about to relinquish one wee tinkle if he can hold it together long enough. 

Enter the character -- wait for it -- "Hope". She is Cladwell's daughter. And she falls Kersplatt! in love with the leader of the "pee-for-free" group of rebels headed up by one Bobby Strong, an idealistic studmuffin who's a cleaner. He works at "Amenity #9", the end-of-the-line pissoir on skid road, cheapest john among the city's dozens. Here the queues back right up, legs aplenty crossed in agony. Backups not just because of the numbers but because of the slavic guardian of #9, Miss Pennywise, she a compleat bureaucrat : "If you gotta go, you gotta go through me!" she proclaims. 

Shortly, Strong kidnaps Hope (get it...?) and the race is on to see if Cladwell will buckle to his knees trying to preserve, unsphinctered, his tinkle tax riches. He's always thinkin' about tomorrow don't you know. Or whether the rebels, always thinkin' about today and Freedom now!, will prevail. In the end neither does. 

WYSIWYG :  For context, let's go back to lyricist Greg Kotis. Firehall's production is nothing if not an example of what Kotis termed "a specific kind of goofball, gonzo theatre". Try as it might it doesn't have to be "relevant" at all to work. Thanks to Director Spencer's insight and spin on the script, the play spoofs any intended relevance originally injected by Kotis and Hollman. Okay, the water shortage bit. Notionally the script tries to appeal to the audience to suppress their excess consumption tendencies -- a kind of Suzuki-esque mini-message. But the sermonette factor in no way stands in the way of the rollicking good laugh all audiences will have at the antics on stage. Asked at half-time what she liked about the play the most, my 21-year-old stated flat-out with no prompting : "It's really funny and you don't have to do any thinking at all." 

Character follies capture from Moment 1 : The play in sum is its casting and characters. Their choreography. The music that propels them. And its joyous spoof on musical theatre tropes from the last 50 years. 

Particular characters in this production stand out, right from its opening lines. David Adams as Officer Lockstock acts as the play's narrator, sharing the task with Tracey Power reprising her Jessie-nominated role from 2006 as Little Sally. Adams' booming baritone and winking bellicosity are a fine contrast to Power's squeaky insouciance. Power was perfect as she wonders innocently whether bad subject matter and a worse title might be enough to kill a theatre show from the get-go.

Meghan Gardiner pulls off Penelope Pennywise, the biffy guard and money-grabber, with terrific oomph. Her singing is powerful tuneful stuff to enjoy.

Quickly we meet Bobby Strong played by Anton Lipovetsky. Lipovetsky is his customary grinny ironic self throughout who utterly charmed the opening night squad of ticket-buyers and freebie critics like me.

Caldwell B. Cladwell, the entrepreneur of Urine Good Company, is executed with hyper-exaggeration of stereotype, dare I say deliciously so by local favourite Andrew Wheeler. 

And then there's Andrew Cohen the dance captain of the troupe. Omigosh what moves. Most of them designed to mimic the Jets / Sharks blacktop jungle quick-step from West Side Story. Pure delight to watch.

As Hope Cladwell, Michelle Bardach delivers the goods very capably as Dad's university-grad fax-&-copier attendant, first off, then as a co-revolutionary by play's end after loverboy Strong is dumped overboard, literally, right before Papa Cladwell gets his deserved comeuppance too.

Names below, each actor contributed cleverly and crisply to the storyline and Spencer's desired satirical emphasis for them, not the least in the "big show parody" numbers where we see funnin' and light-hearted jabs at not only West Side Story, also Les Miserables and Fiddler On The Roof. Individual shout-outs are deserved, too, for David Marr as Cladwell's manservant Mr. McQueen as well as Matt Palmer as the effete Senator Fipp. 

Production values : Words escape me (almost!) to describe the awe I felt at Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg's choreography of this company, both individually and collectively. Together with Director Spencer this is a song-&-dance fete of choreography and blocking so tightly imagined and executed -- every piece, bar none -- that breath literally escaped me at times. 

Dramatic spoofs of old Broadway shows though they may have been, the rebel crowd's "Freedom now!" routine along with all the others were simply superb. Tight, tight, tight! conception, direction, execution. 

Just one clanger. During the 2nd Act, during the Hope-as-hostage dance sequences by the rebels. Hope sits stock-still throughout, motionless, as if comatose. Even while serial captors poke and prod her and threaten repeatedly to lynch her. A notable if not serious blocking / direction mis-step there. Albeit gagged and snagged, she needed appropriate facial and body responses to these taunts and threats. 

Musical Director Steve Charles put together a top-notch combo cited below. Great chops from everyone in the Kurt Weill take-off music that underscored the show.

Barbara Clayden as Costume Designer had fun outfitting the group, no question. I have to admit I wasn't quite sure at any given moment whether we were in Dickens' 19th century London or in Steinbeck's 1930's Depression. But no matter. You could almost smell her Amenity #9 characters up in the top row. 

As he invariably does, Ted Roberts put together a very practical but also visually-engaging set. The movable stairs and ladders rising above the sewer-height rafters were utilized to great effect. 

Who gonna like : As mentioned above, if you are a Spamalot or Avenue Q kind of theatre fan, chances are the cheeky crudeness of Urinetown will amuse and entertain you. Most certainly the Friedenberg choreography accompanying the actors' rich voices will stop you dead for pure entertainment value. 

And, oh sure. We might do a bit of reflection on how mankind rapes and pillages Sacred Earth unmercifully. But that would be an almost gratuitous, nearly accidental, fallout. 

Meanwhile, a final point not to be lost in all of this : the performance occurs in the heart of Vancouver's DTES -- where the Oppenheimer Park tent city just was -- and that fact puts Vancouver theatre-goers' relative wealth in perspective. The lady who beseeched a loonie or two from patrons exiting the theatre at show's end put the plight of society's most needy in a bit of a sobering context. As it should. 

For all of the above reasons, this is a Can't miss! performance.

Particulars : November 1-29, 2014 @ Firehall Arts Centre, Cordova @ Gore Street, DTES. Box Office, 604.689.0926. Web = 

Director Donna Spencer. Musical Director Steve Charles. Choreographer Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg. Costume Designer Barbara Clayden. Lighting Designer Rebekah Johnson. Set Designer Ted Roberts.

Featured actors : David Adams, Michelle Bardach, Chris Cochrane, Andrew Cohen, Meghan Gardiner, Katey Hoffman, Patrick Keating, Chris Lam, Anton Lipovetsky, David Marr, Matt Palmer, Tracey Power, Rosie Simon, Shane Snow, Donna Spencer and Andrew Wheeler.

Musicians : James Danderfer, Bonnie Northgraves, Liam MacDonald, Rod Murray.