Shelter from the Storm
At the Firehall Arts Centre until June 9
You know you’re in for a dose of realism when the big cedar tree looks so real it’s a wonder there’s not a logger with a chainsaw leaping onto Pam Johnson’s set.
Playwright Peter Boychuk tackles the very real but little known plight of American soldiers who flee the Iraq war to seek asylum in Canada. During the Vietnam War approximately 50,000 deserters and draft dodgers were welcomed to Canada. Now, refugee status is often denied and claimants are deported back to the U.S. where they go to prison.
In Boychuk’s play, Scott (Kyle Jespersen), having seen his buddies killed by IEDs and having been ordered to kill “sand niggers,” goes AWOL and ends up in the Tofino waterfront cottage of Rick (Peter Hall), an old hippie and Vietnam draft dodger.
Complication comes in the form of Caitlin (Lindsay Winch), Rick’s surfing champion daughter who looks spectacular in a wetsuit and even better in a bikini.
Winch, a recent Studio 58 grad, is so natural on stage it’s easy to forget she’s acting. She simply slips into Caitlin’s skin and gets the job done. Jespersen, another Studio 58 grad, is less relaxed but his performance suits Scott’s war-ravaged psyche perfectly. Scott has been forced to do despicable things and witnessed unbelievable violence; it’s no wonder the character can’t relax. Hall’s performance on opening night was “actorly” in contrast to Winch and Jespersen; director Katrina Dunn might advise him to pull it back a notch or two.
This world premiere is the result of Flying Start, a program jointly created by Playwrights Theatre Centre (script development), Touchstone Theatre (production) and the Firehall Arts Centre (venue). Designed to help emerging playwrights go from page to stage, Flying Start is a two-year program culminating in a full-scale production. If Shelter from the Storm is any indication, the program has real merit.
Vancouver International Children’s Festival: Kutz & Dawgs
No more performances
While it was raining cats and dogs outside, they were fighting like cats and dogs inside last week at Performance Works in this new hip-hop musical presented by Miscellaneous Productions. Kutz & Dawgs, borrowing from Romeo and Juliet, and West Side Story with a little bit of Cats thrown in, targeted nine-year-olds and older with anti-gang and anti-drug messages.
Co-created by director Elaine Carol and more than a dozen very inspired, very talented young adults, the show was tremendously polished and looked fabulous. No-two-alike costumes by Megan Leson were multi-layered, ragbag concoctions: torn tights, ripped jeans, runners, boots, petticoats, fingerless gloves, miniskirts, scarves and cropped jackets. Totally awesome, as they say. Yvan Morissette went with metal scaffolding for his grubby Fair Verona Junkyard set; Ryan McCallion accentuated the back alley look with shadowy lighting.
Original music by Paul Bray, Ndidi Cascade and Cris Derksen was percussive and perfect for Dianna David’s hip-hop choreography.
But it was the young performers and a multitude of behind-the-scenes crew whose passion for the project made the whole thing fly. As one audience member commented during the Q&A following the performance, these young artists “owned the music, owned the moves.” The Kutz, including Mewliet (Rowan Sylvester) and the Dawgs, led by Ruffeo (Gustavo Diaz de Leon), were so feline and canine in their every move.
An interesting twist at the end had Lord Muttague (Silvia Leung) and Lord Catulet (Jorge Alcala) willing to shake hands and end the violence, but the young Kutz and Dawgs, adrenalin pumping, were still eager to fight. Drum Rumble was a loud, heart-pounding finale with the whole ensemble drumming and shaking percussive instruments as one “kut” and one “dawg” circled each other with teeth bared and claws out. Delivered by young people Kutz & Dawgs packed a terrific punch; money should be found to send this show into all the schools.