Tag Archives: barbara mah

Spooky October performances 2018

I’m not managing to see everything on Edmonton stages these days, but I wish I could.  I wish I’d seen Lenin’s Embalmers at U of A Studio Theatre, or the Maggie Tree production Blood: A Scientific Romance.  From what I’ve read about them, it looks like the creepy or paranormal themes could have fit into this Hallowe’en-week blog roundup, too.

At the Walterdale Theatre, I helped work on The Triangle Factory Fire Project, a script prepared by Christopher Piehler in collaboration with Scott Alan Evans using various primary source materials, and directed here by Barbara Mah.   It was thought-provoking and disturbing, because the horrible fates of real people were depicted graphically, because the resulting legal case portrayed did not result in justice, and because the hazards of the garment industry juxtaposed with fashion advertising are not so different from their contemporary equivalents.   Watching this story play out every night as one of the booth operators, I kept cheering for some of the determined young women who lived to tell their own stories, particularly Rose Freedman (Danielle Yu), and Ethel Monick, (Stephanie Swensrude), and kept getting angry at the factory owners and their lawyer (Eric Rice, Kent Sutherland, and Matthew Bearsto).  It was a relief to close that show and watch some scary shows for fun.  

Dead Centre of Town XI has four more performances in the Blatchford hangar at Fort Edmonton Park.  This year the macabre true stories researched and written by Megan and Beth Dart of Catch the Keys all relate to air travel.  As usual, the audience members are guided through relevant settings to encounter the characters of various disasters and mysterious happenings, while super-creepy poet/narrator Colin Matty provides extra detail and atmosphere.  “If humans were intended to fly, why are they so Goddamned squishy?”, he muses.  More live-theatre than haunted-house, this annual immersive event does a great job at making the details build up the overall experience – even the ticket distribution (“boarding passes”) and the traffic-management (impersonal masked uniformed airport workers in a crowded “boarding lounge” with staticky announcements) are part of the adventure.

Dark! at Fort Edmonton is new this year, adding on food (with creepy nicknames like Bloody Balls and Skewered Rat), drinks, and adult-level haunted-house attractions.  I went to one of the haunts, and decided that I prefer the Dead Centre of Town style of horrifying imagery enhanced by narrative, to the unexplained jump-scares of Dark!

The Bone House, by Marty Chan, also has performances remaining on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.  It was also very scary in a different style again.  At first it felt like a TV or movie experience, with a forensic-psychology expert presenting an illustrated lecture about serial killers, but it became more unsettling – it was easy to involve myself into the story enough that I could imagine being in danger, but I also began to feel somewhat complicit in choosing to listen to serial-killer narratives in any medium.  Brrr.

This weekend I also managed to fit in a performance of Northern Light Theatre’s Origin of the Species, by Bryony Lavery.  With direction and set/costume design by Trevor Schmidt and performances by Kristin Johnston and Holly Turner, it uses the ridiculous premise of a contemporary archaeologist encountering a live prehistoric woman, to touch on several important themes with a subtle touch.  I particularly enjoyed the very gradual transition of the prehistoric woman Victoria (Johnston) towards modern physicality and communication, and the many ways that both characters subvert assumptions about “traditional” gender roles.

She Loves Me!

The other night I watched a musical that was new to me.  Not new to other people, She Loves Me (book by Joe Masteroff, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and music by Jerry Bock) first hit Broadway in 1964, and is opening again next spring.  The Hungarian play on which it’s based was also the basis for the 1998 romantic comedy movie You’ve Got Mail.

The current production, in the Amphitheatre at Faculte St Jean (across the street from La Cite), by Foote in the Door Productions, is directed by Barb Mah, with music direction by Michael Clark.  The setting, a 1930s perfume shop in Budapest, was simply evoked with shades of pink and green in backdrops, counters, and sales-staff shopcoats.  The shop seemed like the equivalent of something like The Body Shop or Lush – selling a variety of necessities and luxuries, focusing on customer experience, and doing a huge business in presents before Christmas.

As in the usual workplace-set story, there’s a cast of characters that includes a boss (James Toupin) with some unreasonable demands and prejudices, an eager-to-please errand boy (Sam Banigan), and a loyal sidekick (Dustin Berube), and in this case there’s also some sub-plot material in the affair between co-workers (Christina O’Dell and Mitch Caddick).  The story soon focuses on Georg (Russ Farmer), a senior employee mistrusted by the boss, who confides that he’s been writing letters through a lonely-hearts correspondence club to Dear Friend.

On a busy day in the shop, then, in bounces Amalia (Ruth Wong-Miller), costumed in a beautiful peacock shade of blue that stands out dramatically from the rest of the show palette, and she quickly talks herself into sales work with a very funny demonstration.  Amalia is also a member of the Lonely Hearts correspondence club, and you can guess the broad strokes of where the story goes from there.

My favourite bits of the show were some of the ensemble numbers with dancing, the stylized couples in the restaurant with the snooty waiter (Kent Sutherland), and the Twelve Days of Christmas shopping crowds in the store.  Six musicians behind the scenes provided accompaniment, atmosphere, and extra entertainment, and the singing was delightful.  Ruth Wong-Miller has a strong pleasant soprano voice and is particularly well cast in this show.  The part with her jumping on the couch in pajamas is also charming.

The last show of the run is tonight (Saturday 28 November) at 7:30.  If you haven’t seen it yet, they should have tickets available at the door, and it’s a lot of fun!