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Upintheair Theatre

Walking Fish Festival

Dates 31 May - 4 June   Venue Performance Works, Granville Island Reviewers Jane Penistan (Sets A & C), Ed Farolan (Set B)

Walking Fish Festival show cases new one act plays which a dramaturge panel have advised on, and have been workshopped by actors and directors. Upintheair Theatre is dedicated to producing “theatre that is accessible, yet challenging, intelligent, darkly humourous and thought provoking.” Its mandate also includes providing opportunities for those in the theatre community to work, create and learn together.

This season’s offering is a diverse and interesting collection with casts ranging from one to five in number, some of whose actors play multiple roles. The night I attended the evening opened with a solo performance Soup by Sherry Yano. In this monologue June describes being Japanese in a predominantly white neighbourhood, the attitudes of the neighbours and the curious questions children ask about those who are different from themselves. It also explores the inner and unexpressed feelings of immigrants in their endeavours to absorb without too much anger, the unintentioned insults and thoughtless queries and remarks of the established community as they try to adapt to a new way of living in an unfamiliar and apathetic milieu. This performance by Joann Liu was well timed and very well delivered. Her speech and gestures, subtle humour and occasional outburst of deep feeling were all controlled and contained both the apparent and underlying meaning of the skilful and discerning script. The direction is by Melanie Yeats.

The next play, The Love that I Made to a Man with No Legs (Peter Wilson), comprised a couple, a young woman who becomes fascinated by a man she can see from her fourth floor window. He sits at his computer in an office, across the street and a few floors lower down. Hence the man with no legs. How she arranges to meet this man fortuitously and their ensuing friendship is the substance of the primarily two monologues, which merge into a dialogue. Nicely developing this plot were Laurann Brown as Wren, the woman and Michael Shore, Atom, directed by Jack Paterson.

With a larger cast, five actors playing several roles, the first section of the evening closed with an essay into the complicated world of Physics and Mathematics, Alan And the Unbearable Lightness of Quarks written by Dan Hirshfield. While the amazing multiplication in the development of the universe is explored, this script did become a little tedious, in spite of its bursts of humour and the energy brought to the performance by the company. Tamara McCarthy directed this scientific diversion.

With concentration refreshed the audience returned for the next three plays. The cast of Richard Lam's The Vibrant Tuesday that important day of the week (?) comprised two student actors and two seasoned troupers, under the direction of Caitlin Fulton and Nadine Charleson. Once again, more work is needed to tighten up this script, both they and the actors did their best.

Nita Bowerman's two hander, Still Life followed, performed by T-Roy Kozuki and Lisa Neptuno. This reveals the ups and downs in the uncertainty of establishing a relationship. How to make it work amicably and how difficult it is to understand the underlying thought of an apparently casual remark. Again, to quote, “There were too many words!” The actors tried valiantly to sustain the work, under the direction of David Newham.

Anal, by Jason Patrick Rothery, is a bawdy and amusing French Canadian play. All the characters are a little larger than life and the somewhat salacious humour keeps bubbling throughout. There is some nice caricature/characterisation here, which the performers obviously enjoyed. Director Cailin Stadnyk and her company kept the pot boiling merrily to the climax.

There were four short plays presented in Set B. The first one, A Man Walks Into a Bar by David Geary was funny at first, but started getting boring towards the end. Actors Marcel Perro as The Man and France Perras as The Woman (I wonder whether their last names, seemingly identical, are made up) started off with the line "A man walks into a bar" and whatever followed were corny punch lines, trying to imitate the yukyuk club club standins. The sympathetic audience, however, laughed politely, although I noticed some members who were more critical, were just not laughing. Good effort, though, on the part of the actors and Director Ryan Gladstone to try to get this dreadful play going. It should have been cut to 10 minutes, in my opinion.

The second play, Leisure, by James Veitch, was too chatty. The concept was  quite interesting--a satire on amusement parks-- but there was too much talk. I'd give this play 5 out of 10.

The third play, Coolio McKnight, was a play by a Grade 12 student, Graham Ockley. Good concept --a pizza delivery boy fantasizing about being a PI --I'd say a good start in playwriting for a teenager. Who knows? We might see his name in lights one day.

The last play, Tantamount Behaviours, was the best. It was funny, entertaining. I just simply enjoyed it. Tanya Podioznuk performed and collaborated in a dance concept of Caroline Liffmann who choreographed and directed this one-performer piece. As Edith Piaf, alternating with Billy Holiday and Louis Armstrong, was singing "Dream a little dream of me", Tanya did her quirky dance movements and addressed the audience occasionally. And of course, the use of the screen in the background gave it a multimedia effect giving this humorous piece that certain "integrated theatre" effect, as it's called these days

© 2006 Jane Penistan
© 2006 Ed Farolan