Space-Time: A Reason to Rhyme

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First-hand observation of the ill-fated astronaut Inflatey [not actual name]
Saturday, June 4th, was (Summer) International Lolita Day, and the Vancouver community visited the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre before afternoon tea.

I was disappointed the planetarium show turned out to be Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity, the one we saw when it premiered last November, minus the presentation by the UBC astronomer. H.R. MacMillan has already been advertising the dark matter show for months, so I didn’t expect the black hole one to still be on.

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Shots of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield in the back

The mini show in the Ground Station Canada Theatre (big name for a small room) was fun, at least; Space: A Dangerous Place, like the Colour of Fire mini show preceding it, involves a lot of burning. The host talks about things like the hazards of space travel while demonstrating the insulating effects of water… and the incendiary properties of torches and fuel, I guess.

Even physicist B-cat learnt something!

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B-cat and me (from group shot)

In retrospect, I should’ve stayed for the 4 pm mini show instead of rushing onto the next venue. Our group was early for our seating at Rose House Vancouver, but still waited two hours for food — no explanation/apology from the restaurant, either. It’s amazing how bad customer service can get when a business and its servers are expecting the automatic group tip.

Grumbling aside, I had a good time at the space centre and hope to catch The Dark Matter Mystery eventually. H.R. MacMillan has shows every day — here’s the show schedule if you’re better at planning than I am.

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And When is This Free Thursday

Last Thursday I saw Vancouver Opera‘s free production of Stickboy tailored to high school students but performed for adults (under 35) at a wine reception. Jillian Christmas opened with a spoken word performance featuring two poems I’d heard at Vancouver Writers Fest.

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Wine and cheese: the lavender-streaked cheese that tasted of berries was best. (What was it?)

But first, I have updates on the hellish adventure that is VO customer service. As you may recall, the story began when a rep we shall call Doreen tried to get me to resubscribe to VO by being a bit of a thug. I complained at the next opera; someone told me to email; my email was ignored. In the next chapter, someone at VO saw that blog post and told me to contact them again; my email was ignored again.

Chapter 3: Someone at VO called to solicit donations. I summed up the above as refusal. She transferred me to her manager, who declared she’d look into this and get back to me for closure. Still no word a month later.

If there was any doubt about my tone here or on the phone, let me clarify that I find all this unprofessional and infuriating. I’m glad there’s nothing left in the season but a musical and the Orientalistastic Madama Butterfly, because screw VO.

 

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The stage

As for Stickboy, the music often weakens where it should affirm the words, and at times the piece is less opera than musical. The version we saw has a particularly small cast, which inspires clever stage setup and character changes, but again does not help the sound. The writer (Shane Koyczan) manages to portray the bullying experience among boys in a realistic and moving way, however. The most effective scenes are those that speak more universally of love, e.g. when the Boy and his grandmother pass each other notes under the door, and when the Boy graduates.

So, screw VO, but read about the good things they’re doing with Stickboy in schools.

Full Circle (and Vancouver Opera) Disappoint with Words

Two weeks ago, Vancouver Opera came across this post (Summary: I complained about a VO rep we shall call Maureen being rude. VO told me to email them and then ignored my email) and told me to contact them. While I didn’t see the point of complaining again, I thanked them for reaching out and figured they’d finally apologize or give me boilerplate copypasta about their customer service just for the record.

Well, they ignored my email again. Fool me twice…?

For the Pleasure
Quick selfie with the poster

This previous week, I saw Full Circle: First Nations Performance‘s production of For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again at Gateway Theatre. I and all other volunteers at Vancouver Writers Fest got two free tickets, but the room wasn’t full.

[Only the vaguest of spoilers]

The narrator relives various conversations with his mother — as the middle-aged actor morphs, through speech and mannerisms alone, from a prepubescent boy to a college student — before giving her life a (surprise) ending.

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I know, I know, the play is a tribute to a dead mother, and who can criticize someone’s mother?! But as a character on stage, “Nana” (Margo Kane) comes across as such an unintelligent, unfunny (unless physical comedy is your thing) stereotype of a housewife that I was really surprised by the narrator’s (Kevin Loring) spiel about her wit and brilliance. Just because someone gave birth to you, it doesn’t mean you’re capable of breathing life into your idea of her.

As with the opening monologue, every rant, every joke, every idea is stretched too long. The 90 minutes feel like days worth of tedium and cliches. While B-cat finds the 10- to 12-year-old narrator’s vocabulary unlikely, Loring is convincing in his role(s)… except when he’s completely unfazed by his mother’s melodramatic cries about being “pregnant with [her] death”. B-cat and I both notice Kane’s numerous mistakes in speech that are not part of the writing, and I doubt Nana’s slang is period-accurate. Mentions of drawers (as in underpants) and wringers garner dry chuckles from the senior members of the audience, but it’s little more than “oh, I get that reference” a la Family Guy.

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Stage set-up

The ending is B-cat’s least favourite, but, to me, the only worthwhile part. Visually, it’s stunning; if anything, it looks as if the whole budget went into it, because the rest takes place on a too-small platform beneath too-tall walls and harsh, uneven lighting. I love its absurdity and its message about writers and their power or need to rewrite lives or truths, the latter of which writer Michel Tremblay handles more effectively than, say, Ian McEwan in Atonement. (McEwan is better at basic research, though — Tremblay obviously knows nothing about ballet lessons.)

Too bad the rest of For the Pleasure is mostly noise.

[Insert obligatory joke about the discomfort of seeing this play] It runs until Oct. 24, 2015.