A Tale of Two Comedies

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One of my old professors posts frequently and publicly on Facebook and I read those posts without technically “following” him–that’s a thing non-stalkers do, right?–and the other day he mentioned OBIT at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

B-cat took me to see it a couple of days ago. It’s a two-chuckle play for me, with tired (and at times homophobic) jokes from the script writers and disappointing acting from all except Marnie Mahannah, a real girl surrounded by line-reciting marionettes.

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Okay, Richard Archer was charming, too, in his own way

Only the elderly members of the audience, the ones holding glasses of wine, were laughing. Still, I held my tongue after the show until B-cat began talking about the fart joke-level of humour and wooden performances. He hadn’t known shows got into the Fringe by lottery rather than merit. In the end, it was his gentle mockery of OBIT that gave us a laughter-filled evening.

The Fringe has a million billion shows–try your luck!

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Two weeks before that, I took B-cat to hear Rossini’s Barber of Seville at Bard on the Beach. Why is the Shakespeare festival putting on unrelated operas? Who knows? At least they do it better than Vancouver Opera.

The production features UBC opera students and Vancouver Opera Orchestra musicians. The stage is the one looking out onto the park–it’s almost as beautiful as the music. Everyone contributes to this sincere, delightful performance; Geoffrey Schellenberg’s Figaro, in particular, stands out with his humorous ways and strong voice, plastic wig be damned.

On our way out, we passed an attendee who was asking Schellenberg about his career. The latter said he was heading to Calgary Opera, which is pretty nice, even if Vancouver won’t have him. (It’s not eavesdropping if they’re loud, right?)

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The chocolate’s not bad, either

In short, UBC Opera is awesome and the world needs more student operas. Bard on the Beach doesn’t list any operas for next season, but hey there’s plenty of Shakespeare.

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Die Bart Die: Die Fledermaus at Vancouver Opera (and a Bonus Play)

This is late as I’ve been preparing for a trip to Germany (Staatsballett Berlin, yo), but in March I saw Vancouver Opera‘s production of Strauss’s Die Fledermaus.

I’ve loved opera since I first took opera studies in the SFU English department, and the first opera I ever saw in person was Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte with VO, 10 years back. (Turned out not to be quite my thing, being a comedy.) I even subscribed to their 2013/2014 season.

But since one of VO’s reps — let’s call her Francine — hassled me last summer, I’ve borne a bit of a grudge.

Over the course of a few weeks, Francine called half a dozen times demanding to know if I would resubscribe. I hadn’t yet looked at their 2014/2015 lineup, but she offered no information (unlike the other rep who phoned, just once). When this crotchety CS genius caught me at work/sleep, she’d keep talking, and sounded disbelieving and offended when I offered to call VO back when ready.
Each time I picked up, Francine increased in volume and aggression, until finally I received a call that was literally, “Are you gonna subscribe or not?”

When I complained to VO during the intermission of one of the operas, they gave me an address to email. And then never responded. Thus completing the circle of excellent customer service.
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San Francisco Opera being an 18-hour drive away, VO is unfortunately the only good live opera around, so for Christmas I got B-cat tickets to Die Fledermaus.

This year they encouraged pictures to be taken (and shared online) at the final bow

It was good. We both prefer tragedy over comedy, but it was good.

[This opera is ollld. Do you really need a spoiler alert?]

Die Fledermaus, which I’ll forever remember as the opera Rachel missed in that episode of Friends (the one in which Ross meets Emily) is a comic opera about a man, Gabriel von Einstein, skipping his week-long prison sentence to go to a ball, at which he encounters his wife Rosalinde and maid Adele in disguise. The ball is held by the Prince so that Falke could publicly make a fool out of the latter’s pal von Einstein, as revenge for another prank involving a bat (the titular fledermaus) costume.

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With several of VO’s operas the previous year, and with all student operas I’ve seen, weak (?) voices seem to be a problem. i.e. Some of the singers are unable to project, and are drowned out by the orchestra. Is this a thing?

Aside from first faltering minutes of Joyce El-Khoury’s Rosalinde, who soon warmed up beautifully (and the Prince, who is too minor a character), there are no voice issues in this performance. Not quite as smooth is the insertion of jokey references to Vancouver places and people — VO touts this as being set in “Viennacouver” — but the jokes aren’t bad, and Frosch, the drunken jailer who delivers most of them, is a hit with the audience.

B-cat and I especially liked David Pomeroy‘s Alfred, Rosalinde’s enthusiastic foreign lover, with his wonderful voice and energy.

Vancouver Opera’s next and last production of the season is Sweeney Todd, with performances on April 25, 26, and 30, and May 1 to 3.

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Plus:

Two weeks after the opera, I took B-cat to Arts Club Theatre Company‘s production of The Foreigner at Shadbolt.

Written by American playwright Larry Shue, The Foreigner is a farce about Charlie, a shy, cuckolded Brit reluctantly vacationing at a country resort in the US where the other guests mistake him to be something very rare: a real foreigner! They discuss private matters in front of him, try to teach him English, etc. Add a pair of no-goodniks with Klan ties who try to cheat the lodge owner out of her property, and hijinks ensue.

B-cat and I have been lucky in that each play we’ve seen this year has been better than the previous, and The Foreigner is the best yet. Except when Charlie’s bowing and hai-ing get way too Mr. Yunioshi for comfort, and except when the portrayals of the Klan and bigotry truly terrify — ironically, considering my only complaint (unless the awful Japanese stereotyping was intentional…) — we laughed and laughed and cried and laughed. As did everyone else.

tempArts Club‘s next next production is Farewell, My Lovely on Granville Island. It’s a private eye tale based on a Raymond Chandler novel I haven’t read. I won’t be able to see it, but you should if you have the chance.