The 24th Annual Vancouver New Play Festival


By Teresa David & Susan Jarema

JAVALIFE by Aaron Bushkowsky
Director: Peter Hinton
Arts Club Revue Theatre
Nov. 8th-23rd
Tickets: 687-1644, 685-6228 or Ticketmaster at 280-3311

Coffee and friendship; the two go hand in hand. Java life is about people grinding through their lives' journey, struggling with the ups and downs, commiserating together until brewed into a steamy connection.

Java Life is set in a typical Vancouver coffee bar where its characters are seeking solutions to their melancholy existence by questioning the meaning of life.

The underlying theme of this play centers around the desire for people to connect in a large and often cold big city. The feeling at the onset is that the characters are unable to overcome their depression. The paradox is that these characters do indeed connect eventually and it is the coffee shop that brings them together. The audience could sense the need of these characters to find someone to listen to their problems. The play picks up on Vancouver's obsession with the culture of coffee, current trends in the city and many of the issues of modern life.

The audience is given a chance to view the cross section of several moments throughout a few days in the life of these "Java coffee" people. Black humour keeps the audience entertained as serious issues are discussed.

The success of this play can be attributed to the strong development of the five characters early in the play: the conflict between two sisters Melanie (Laara Sadiq) and Lee-Ann (Veena Sood) who both seek emotional peace... Lee-Ann seeks solace in Sam (Norman Armour), a "Kramer-like" character. Armour’s opening night performance was, by the way, noteworthy. The other characters, Chris (Steve Griffith) and Jon (Allan Zinyk), work at a long-term care facility where the two sisters bring their father.

The diversity of the characters is well achieved, symbolically, by the varieties of coffee now so popular in coffee bars. There is that feeling in this play that people of different backgrounds and personalities are all going through the difficult
challenge of life. These differences allow them to connect to each other. As the play ends and the actors leave the stage, it feels as if the lives of these five unique characters would continue on.

The serious issue of sexual abuse seemed, though, a little too strong of an issue to be left unresolved. Another shortcoming was the overuse of smoking in the play which doesn't currently represent the typical coffee shop atmosphere in Vancouver where laws now have restricted smoking in restaurants. The use of the cigarette as a dramatic tool to symbolize despair and connection is overdone. The sharing of cigarettes almost comes close to overtaking the general "java-coffee" theme of the play.