Vancouver Playhouse

THE HISTORY OF THINGS TO COME

By Morris Panych with Gary Jones and Shawn MacDonald

April 5 to May 1, 1999

by Violetta Lapinski

A wacky and entertaining time travel experience loosely based on science fiction writer H.G Wells's story, The Time Machine. The play begins in Victorian London of 1899, with the engaging cast set-up in a drawing room of sorts speeding through discussions of time travel, the future, current events and philosophy. All characters are eccentric and animated in their performances, lending humour and charm to the scene.The writing is fast, ascerbic and punchy. Lines are delivered with good timing and wit. This is fun! The set decoration is smart, simple with clean lines. Audience participation is met with some trepidation, but adds to the enjoyment and hilarity of the scenes.

Whilst the audience members are chosen, the cast on stage is at a standstill, completely motionless, frozen in their time. The first half of the play rolls through its scenes playfully and cleverly.

Alas, the second half of the show wanes here and loses momentum. The first scene is actually the best and strongest. I felt tossed into a 'Teletubbies' show, what with the wonderful visual set and crazy, trippy costumes and soothing, soft little high pitch voices performed by the 'Eloi'. But the scenes were too long and disjointed; the stories lost their interest and became long winded. The ideas are great, but need to be executed with a crisper flair for theatrics.

The novelty of the audience participation seemed to have worn out its welcome, and the finish lacked the alacrity of the show's beginning.

Lighting design by Alan Brodie was electric, nicely designed and necessary for the mood changes. Creative and fashion conscious period costume design by Nancy Bryant was stimulating and very funny, especially in the futuristic scenes. Music was terrific and well executed to particular scenes; special sound effects were nicely chosen by Ian Rye. Set Design by Ken MacDonald was simplistic and very effective, and the 'Time Machine', a beautiful cage of lights and pyrotechnics.

Wonderful performances notably by Leslie Jones (playing 4 roles)and Shawn MacDonald (co-creator , playing 2 roles), and Gary Jones. The ensemble cast includes Romano Danylo, Allan Morgan and Beatrice Zeilinger. They work well as a creative and kooky team. Stephen Crouch and Jan Hodgson are Stage manager and Assistant Manager, respectively. Director Morris Panych gives a good effort here, but having seen his excellent The Overcoat last year, this play requires an edit to bring it up to the same quality.