Monthly Archives: June 2014

Rock Paper Dice Enter – the movie

I’m reporting on some not-quite-so-ephemeral entertainment this week, with the web tv series Lizard at Home the other day and now a cinematic-release feature movie.

I’m not sure why I hadn’t heard of Rock Paper Dice Enter before today – probably I wasn’t paying attention.  A friend mentioned that he’d been to the Canadian premiere last night because he’d participated in the crowdfunding initiative, and that it had lots of local content.  It sounded interesting so I went today.

The story was a bit confusing.  Some of it ends up explained satisfyingly at the end, but I felt like maybe there was more I was supposed to figure out and didn’t.  Not just plot threads but some of the philosophical theme points.  (People complain about everything being obvious and overdone in typical Hollywood movies, but I was left wishing this one was a little bit more obvious.)   Some criminals (or are they?) are threatening (or negotiating with?) a crisis-management team of city officials.  The criminals don’t all have the same motives and information.  One of the strengths of the script, direction, and acting is that the crowd of eleven city officials was quickly shown to have several credibly distinct characters, including many who were female and/or non-white.

The local content included lots of Edmonton skylines and streetscapes and LRT station chase scenes, as well as a few other locales that I thought I should be able to place and wasn’t, quite.  I enjoyed recognising some of the views, especially since they were filmed in a way that didn’t draw attention to the details, with Blade-Runner-ish lighting – not like the hyper-detailed views of Toronto streetcars on TV shows like Being Erica and Flashpoint.

The filmmakers are Kash Gauni, who wrote the original story and who plays Roman in the film, and director Shreela Chakrabartty.   Other actors include Richard Lee (U of A acting graduate who has a strong presence in the Alberta dance community, and whom I think I first saw on stage singing in Joel Crichton’s song cycle Twenty-Five at Fringe 2011), Alyson Dicey and Chris W Cook (both frequent performers in local professional theatre), Dave Wolkowski who I saw recently on stage at the Walterdale Theatre in Starless, and a Ben Sures (who may or may not be Ben Sures the folk musician).  I did not recognise any of the other actors’ names.  I thought Richard Lee’s portrayal was one of the more interesting, along with Ojas Joshi’s computer analyst Kamran.  Georgette Starko’s public official Kim Puzzo had a distractingly flat affect and monotone voice, without enough on-screen character development to explain that.

Rock Paper Dice Enter is playing at the Landmark Cinemas 10 Clareview Edmonton until Thursday June 12th.    Their address is not on their website and Google maps is no help until you figure out that the cinema was an Empire property until recently.  It’s also playing on one screen in Calgary and one in Toronto, and it opened across India in February.

As a casual filmgoer rather than a skilled observer, I thought the production values were fine, and I liked the music.  The pace was fast enough for the genre.  The movie was quite short (about 80 minutes).   I wondered if a slightly longer version would have given me more satisfying explanations and explored the characters a bit more.


Thursday is Lizard Day

I don’t often watch web-TV series, but I’ve been enjoying the episodes of “Lizard at Home”.  They come out on Thursdays.  There have been three episodes so far, but they’re about 6 minutes long so it’s easy to get caught up and then watch today’s.

“Lizard at Home” is a creation of Dustin Clark, Joel Crichton, and Starlise Waschuk.  On the show website they describe it as a comedic thriller, or comedy/sci-fi.  To me, it feels similar in tone to the recent British television shows “Being Human” and “Torchwood”, both of them supernatural and mysterious and sometimes dark but never taking themselves too seriously.  Apparently it was produced quickly and simply, but I don’t find the production values distracting from an intriguing little story, which I can’t predict the outcome of.  The music is atmospheric and good.

The premise of this story seems to be that two roommates, Drake who looks human but is actually at least somewhat a lizard (Dustin Clark), and Oliver who is observing him as a scientist (Joel Crichton), have an unexpected encounter with an assassin from the future (Starlise Waschuk).  I don’t have a lot of experience with lizards, mostly just taking care of a neighbour’s iguana while he was on vacation (the neighbour, not the iguana), but I was amused by the credibly lizard-like habits of Drake, napping under a heat lamp and spritzing himself with water mist.

Anyway, today is lizard day.  Give it a try!



Wonderful Town!

Wonderful Town, a 1953 musical with music by Leonard Bernstein, is this year’s Citadel Theatre Young Musical Company performance, directed by Bridget Ryan with musical direction by Sally Hunt.

It’s a silly fluffy large-cast show with lots of mistaken identities and misunderstandings, goofy characters, delightful period costumes, and a happy ending.  The setting is New York City’s Greenwich Village in the 1930s, with a mix of young people, artists and performers, prostitutes, and immigrants living in the inexpensive apartments of the area. The premise was actually quite similar to Avenue Q.

The story opens with a tour guide in straw boater (Adam Houston) showing some tourists the sights and inhabitants of Christopher Street, Washington Square, and nearby areas.  This device allows many of the cast to be briefly introduced while setting the scene in a song.  Then the main characters, sisters Ruth (Zia Mizera) and Eileen (Sydney Williams) from Columbus Ohio, arrive with their suitcases, looking for an apartment and hoping to make their names in writing and in show business, respectively.  Landlord and painter Mrs Appopolis (Michelle Diaz) rents them a tiny basement apartment, shown on stage with twin beds cunningly pulling out of a backdrop, and a window grate at street level opening on an outside staircase.  We learn quickly that older sister Ruth is the practical outspoken one, but both of them are quickly overwhelmed with the big city, the apartment shaking with detonations for subway construction, men looking for the prostitute previous tenant (Phoebe Davis), drunks peering in the grate or unzipping to urinate through it.  This sets up the lovely song “Ohio”, in which they express their homesickness while rhyming the name of the state with “Why,oh why oh,”  I was particularly charmed because I used to live in Columbus.

Ruth sends out her writing to editors (Roland Meseck, Eugene Kwon, Michelle Diaz) and tries to get work in journalism, while Eileen mostly seems to spend her time meeting “boys” (Bryce Stewart, Adam Houston, etc).  Ruth’s wry song “One Hundred Easy Ways To Lose a Man”, acknowledging that her competence, bluntness, and unwillingness to dissemble are disadvantages in dating, is possibly not quite as true today as it was sixty years ago when the song was written, but it’s still familiar and the song is a good exposition of Ruth’s character, putting the audience on her side.  Neighbours Wreck and Helen (Daniel Greenways and Bridget Lyne) are an unmarried couple whose plans to conceal their cohabitation when Helen’s mother (Phoebe Davis) visits are also slightly dated to a modern audience but still humorously familiar.

In classic musical theatre structure, the first act ended with plot complications and an uptempo song and dance number with lots of cast members in it.  Ruth is tricked into believing she has an assignment to interview some Brazilian naval cadets for a human interest story, but the sailors (Houston, Kwon, Davis, Taylor Paskar, Diaz, Lyne) just break into an enthusiastic and uncontrollable conga line which lands in Ruth and Eileen’s apartment and gets Eileen arrested for disturbing the peace.

As the second act opens, Eileen is in custody in a station full of police officers with Irish accents, all charmed and all convinced she is Irish.   After a few more twists and turns, everyone has happy endings – Ruth finds both requited love and journalistic employment, and Eileen is a hit singing in a nightclub.

Most of the performers are cast in several roles, showing their versatility.  The only characters that I had a little trouble distinguishing were Bryce Stewart’s Valenti (the nightclub promoter) and Chick Clark (the newspaperman).  Zia Mizera and Sydney Williams were very good together as the contrasting but loyal sisters.


The Inspector General – ridiculously topical

The Citadel Theatre’s Young Acting Company show this spring is The Inspector General, as translated/adapted by Michael Chemers in 2010 from the 1836 Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol Russian original.   A report of the 2010 production mentions that many references to local Pittsburgh politics were incorporated.

This production, directed by Dave Horak, is said to be set in the city of Edmoronto, and it is enhanced by references that are sometimes generally Canadian and sometimes specifically Edmontonian.   It’s satirical and broadly comedic and I laughed a lot.  The mayor of Edmoronto (Eric Smith) is both corrupt and incompetent.  Most of the cast play officials in his administration (to use those terms loosely), from the City Controller (Marie Mavko, organized and imposing) down to the Co-chairs of the Emergency Crisis Centre, Frick and Frack (Philip Geller and Matt Ness, a hilarious slapstick pair in bowler hats and confused expressions).  The Mayor’s ambitious wife (Morgan Donald) was previously “dancing at the Moulin Spooge”.  The mayor’s surly cynical art-student daughter (Courtney Wutzke) was one of my favourite characters, because her portrayal of disaffected text-speaking young person was spot-on but she was actually a more complex character as well.

The main plot premise is that the mayor and administration find out that some kind of government inspector is arriving incognito from Ottawa, and they are worried about getting in trouble.   So when they hear that someone has been staying at a hotel in town for two weeks, they conclude he must be the inspector, and they descend on him with excuses and bribes.  But of course the visitor (Nico Ouellette) is actually a drifter and minor civil servant, with his equally hapless travelling companion Zippo (Lauren Derman).  When he catches on that the city officials haven’t landed in his hotel room to arrest them but to pay court to him and try to influence him, he smoothly begins to take advantage of the situation, stuffing the bribes in his pockets and drinking the mayor’s brandy. “Everything he says means something else”, says one of the officials, explaining all his behaviour in light of seeing him as the undercover inspector.

The comedy dictum “rule of three”, meaning to find humour in slightly varying repetitions, is well incorporated here by the writer, translator, and director.  Each of the mayor’s cronies and associates (Mavko, Hayley Moorhouse, Chayla Day, Eva Foote, Alex Dawkins, Marc Ludwig, Ness, and Geller) has his or her own distinct character traits and motivation, all interesting and funny.  Each of them has amusing stage business, a unique attempt to bribe, a funny way of arranging his or her chair for a business meeting.  Eric Smith’s mayor character was not exactly likeable but engaging, and his frenzied dance number near the end was delightful.  Niko Ouellette was a crowd favourite as the scoundrel they assume is the inspector.   I also enjoyed Chayla Day’s understated portrayal of the Mormon liquor-store owner and president of the Chamber of Commerce, and the subtle humour in her costuming and lines.

The short run of The Inspector General is complete, and the Young Musical Company’s show finishes tonight.  The Young Playwriting Company has staged readings Tuesday and Wednesday.  The old Citadel website had bios of the Young Company participants.  I’m disappointed that the new one doesn’t, because I liked getting to know the names of some of the talented emerging artists to watch out for around the Edmonton theatre scene in future.