Arts Club Theatre

Hamlet

by Wm. Shakespeare

Starring Michael Shanks as Hamlet

January 27 to February 20, 1999

The Stanley Theatre du Maurier Stage

by Ed Farolan

There was nothing spectacular about Morris Panych's interpretation of Hamlet, nor were the sets of Ken MacDonald awe-inspiring.  The direction was straight-to-the-point; the actors did their job well; the audience listened intently, laughing at the Polonius  (Bernard Cuffling) laugh lines, or Hamlet's faked insanity as he tells Ophelia (Jennifer Clement) "Get thee to a nunnery!".  The actors wore austere turn-of-the-19th century costumes, and the play was typical of all noveau or experimental versions of Shakespeare, since Tyrone Guthrie and Richard Burton did their modern -day versions in the fifties and sixties, followed by Olivier's 19th century BBC TV interpretation of Merchant of Venice, and recently, Kenneth Brannagh's movies.

I believe, all over the world, Shakespeare, during those beatnik years was being experimented upon.  I remember playing Macbeth in a spaceman's suit in 1964, and Hamlet in black a-la-Burton the following year.  It seemed to be the mood of the times--experimentation.  A production I directed called Experiment in Shakespeare in Bowling Green had Hamlet's soliloquy "To be or not to be" in ten different languages.

In a way, I liked doing this fresh interpretation of Shakespeare, but then, it's also nice to return ti the traditional Shakespeare, the way it's done every summer at Bard on the Beach.  This makes me love Vancouver--you have innovative directors like Panych on one hand coming out with an excellent, austere production like this for the Arts Club, and on the other, you have Christopher Gaze's summer festival returning to the roots of what a real Shakesperean production looks like.

One word for TV Star Michael Shanks (Stargate SG-1).  Watch that voice.  It's going.  Drink a lot of hot ginger juice, and gargle in hot salt water as often as you can.  As a Shakesperean actor, I know what you're going through, especially now that you're spoiled acting on film and television.

One last note:  the music.  Eerie, moody, well done.  Interesting idea putting Violinist Mark Ferris on stage-left balcony playing his strings to the tune of other music and sound effects composed by Jeff Corness.

Wang Dang Doodle

Written by Leslie Mildiner

Conceived, Directed, Choreographed by Denis Simpson

Plays Jan 13th – Feb 6th at Granville Island Stage

Tickets 687-1644

Play Raises Rent Money But Not Roof

by Frank C. Scott

The world premier of the Harlem musical, Wang Dang Doodle opened very slowly. At times it offered more steam than the Cannonball Express, and at other times ran out of steam. What promised to be a roof-raisin' experience in hand-clapping, jump-jiving, and rent-partying hilarity, did everything but raise the roof. Don't get me wrong. At times the play had the roof rafters shaking, but they weren't raising.

Act One opened slowly chugging along with the odd promise of spark, and didn't really start to hop until Rudy sang his Jewish rendition, Harlem style that is, of 'Everyday I Have The Blues.' Laurie Murdoch, who plays the part of Rudy, also plays the part of psychic Shopping Bag Mary, and seemed to be the glue that held Act One together.

Act Two got hopping at a faster pace with the entire cast giving polished performances. Grace, played by Candus Churchill, gets things going and steaming with her hot and sexy 'Dr. Long John' number. Minnie still dreams about going to Paris. Gangster Sam "Sneeze" Price, forces Ellsworth King to steal his wife's life savings. Shopping Bag Mary plays her special version of 'Oh Danny Boy' on her special violin before chasing after Father Delight. God pays a visit to Ellsworth. Rudy and Charlotte decide to part ways, and finally, the police show up. In the end, both cast and audience are hand clapping and jump jiving in the revelry, and the roof is almost raised.

As Wang Dang Doodle unfolds, the audience is slowly pulled in, and the story of the infamous Harlem "rent parties" from the 20's and 30's is told. With it come 25 classic jiving and blues songs from this hard times era. You begin to get an understanding of what life was like for these "hanging loose", cash-strapped, Harlem citizens as they raise money to pay the rent.

In its day, a "rent party" attracted the likes of, Duke Ellington, James P.Johnson, Willie "the Lion" Smith, Fats Waller, and Cab Callaway. Composer George Gershwin, sometimes attended these "parlor socials" as a guest, preferring their creativity and fun, rather than the pomp of white-owned "high-class" clubs.

British-born novelist and playwright, Leslie Mildiner, wrote Wang Dang Doodle by teaming up with Denis Simpson, who conceived, directed and choreographed. Denis is considered one of Canada's leading entertainers and has a career that spans 30 years as an actor, singer, songwriter and dancer, as well as director. His stage credits include the award winning, Ain't Misbehavin' and Denis Anyone? He is also remembered as the host of TV Ontario's Polka Dot Door.

The six cast members of Wang Dang Doodle, Andre Benjamin, Candus Churchill, Dee Daniels, Laurie Murdoch, Tom Pickett, and Katie Wright, have entertained Canadians for years and all are top-notch, talented, singers and performers. Each has far too many stage, television, and film credits to mention. Worth mentioning is Laurie Murdoch's recent announcement that his performance would be in 3D. I think, it was in 4D…The usual three being height, width, and depth, and the last dimension being (with a capital C) Character.

Band members Lorne Kellet (Piano), Alexander "A-Train" Boynton (Bass), and Lou Hoover (Drums) played excellently and provided the evening's music in the traditional "rent-party" fashion by blending and partying with the crowd. The technical team of Ted Roberts (Set Design), and Marsha Sibthorpe (Lighting Design), worked magic with this production. Both set and lighting design complimented the other and added to the overall experience of the evening.

Two Ships Passing

Written by Dave Carley

Directed by Bill Millerd

Plays Jan 5th - Jan 16th at The Stanley Theatre

Tickets 687-1644

Hilariously Sexy… Politically Funny!

by Frank C. Scott

This play is a damn good comedy. It's a comedy about people of high places, about the pillars of our society, the ones of authority, high moral standards, etc.…and they're having a damn hard time having sex, and having sex in the wildest and weirdest of places.

Playwright, Dave Carley, beautifully sets up this lusty romantic comedy. You have Anna, an overbearing, neurotic, single mom. She's an over-achiever, a product of the hippie, flower-child generation. She is now a newly appointed Provincial Judge looking to achieve more, and has a sex drive that constantly runs in over-drive.

You also have Wesley, the shy man from Anna's past. Wesley is back to rekindle their steamy relationship, except he is now a minister but not so pure. He is still shy, but his fetish is for a woman in robes. Both still carry a flame for the other, both have serious careers and morals to uphold, and both are horny as hell.

Just when you think this is plenty for hilarity, in walks Jason, Anna's only son. Jason has his mom's bad habits and is very over protective. He carries with him his newly earned MBA degree, and is as disapproving as the best of conservatives. To complicate things even more, all three argue about their own political and moral beliefs over a case Anna is judging.

Gillian Barber plays Anna, Jackson Davies plays Wesley, Peter Grier plays Jason, and all three actors play their roles to perfection. All three gave all-star performances, delighting the audience with perfectly timed punch-line delivery. The script contains many pokes and stabs at politicians, moral behavior, and relationships, and each time the cast captured the innuendo with sharp, biting poignancy. Jackson Davies, the more seasoned of the cast is best remembered for his starring role in The Beachcombers. Gillian Barber, also a star of screen, has been seen in movies such as, Double Jeopardy, Jumanji, and Needful things.

A standing ovation should also be given to Bill Millerd, not only for his masterful direction, but also for his dedication and work on assisting in the restoration of The Stanley Theatre. Thanks to Bill and many people like him, including Jackson Davies, the Stanley Theatre can now go on to be the grand building that it is, and continue to offer fine entertainment for years to come. Ted Roberts' simplistic set design worked well, requiring only minimal changes to create the two settings needed in this two-act comedy.

So, go see this lusty little comedy and have yourself a romantically sinful evening