SEE SEVEN PRODUCTIONS
by Teresa Lubkiewicz-Urbanowicz
Translator Helena Kaut-Howson Director Tammy Isaacson
Dates and Venue 2 - 18 November 2006 at 20.00 Performance Works, Granville Island
Reviewer Ed Farolan
I had the chance to meet the playwright who happened to be sitting right behind me at opening night, and she was accompanied by Michal Moniaszko, who interpreted her Polish to English to me. She said that although the English translation was originally premiered in Ireland, as the translator was living in Ireland, this is the first time she has seen the English version of her play. They arrived from Poland last Thursday and will be here for a week before she returns to Warsaw.
She said that Werewolves was inspired by an incident when her husband was stranded in a small village in White Russia during World War II. He was brought to a dark and dingy house and was shocked to see a coffin on top of a table with a body of a dead woman. There was food and drink around the coffin and under the influence of alcohol, men and women dressed in sheep fur were singing folk music and dancing around the coffin.
This is precisely what the first act of the play is all about, except that three men dressed in sheep clothing barge in suddenly while this wake is taking place, and the townspeople are frightened. Asked whether these were werewolves, she laughed and said this was a political allegory to avoid Soviet censorship. She had written this in the mid-seventies, and these "werewolves" were from the other side of the river (boundary between Belarus and Russia).
Before the play began, Pi Theatre's Artistic Director Del Surjik explained that. part of Pi Theatre's program was created to aid individual emerging theatre artists, and that all the artists in this play from actors to stage management, designers and production personnel were there to assist them make their way into the professional stream.
Indeed, I found the production professionally designed. The sets evoked a frightening intensity of Bram Stoker's Dracula, appropriately timed for the Halloween season and the Christian celebrations of All Souls' Day, día de los muertos.
The actors also portrayed their parts professionally, and I was impressed by the skill and expertise of the14 actors. Surely, these talents are on their way to future stages and shows not only in Vancouver but all over North America.
2006 Ed Farolan
This production marks the 20th musical performed by Applause Musical Society. Dal Richards was the guest of honor of this gala night performance, and after the show, Artistic Producer and Director Ashton Swan presented Richards as an honorary member of the society. There truly is a need for musicals in Vancouver, and I'm glad that a company like this is developing musical theatre. Eventually, we may not only have a North Hollywood but a North Broadway in town.
In past productions, these musicals were performed as Readers' Theatre, whereby the actors/singers would all have scripts on hand as they acted and sang. Everyone was dressed in black and white, and there was some kind of uniformity in these past productions.
However, Ashton has gone one step further and had the actors dressed in costumes. While some actors had scripts on hand, others didn't. The songs were sung without the books, but the spoken lines, especally with the main actors, had them holding and reading from their scripts.
I totally agree with the Readers' Theatre concept, but once you put costumes and a set, I don't think a musical should go half-way, so to speak. It's either everyone does it like Readers' Theatre, or no books at all, especially when sets and costumes are in place.
The impression I had was that this was a rehearsal, and not the actual show. In fact, some actors were stumbling over their lines, or forgetting their cues.So I suggest that Ashton go all the way next time. Besides, classic musicals like this would really shine if the actors didn't have books on hand.
I enjoyed the show; my only objection is having actors read. This is distracting not only for the audience but for the actors themselves. But despite this, I was surprised at the quality of acting and singing of these amateur performers.
Christine Quintana was superb as Susie; I enjoyed her rendition of the ever popular "My Funny Valentine". Scott Cumming as Val was a bit weak and seemed unprepared; the duet with Lauren Morrow (Jennifer) of another popular hit song, "When or When" could have been more romantic. Dane Szohner as the theatre owner, Mr. Flemming and Rob Christensen as playwright Lee Calhoun were hamming up their parts really well; Danielle Leger (Terry) was very good, and she received a warm ovation after singing "I Wish I Were in Love Again" with Blair Hayashi (Gus) who also did a good job acting and singing. Susan Skemp as Bunny was the best of all, in my opinion. I liked her rendition of "Way Out West on West End Avenue" and especially another classic, "The Lady Is A Tramp" which she sang with the other "apprentices". The audience really enjoyed this song, and I heard a few whistles and cheers as they applauded.
Congratulations to Scott Ashton Swan and to the entire cast for another enjoyable musical!
© 2006 Ed Farolan