Tag Archives: Kayvon Kelly

Review: Mother Teresa is Dead at Pacific Theatre

Something Pacific Theatre does exceedingly well is address big philosophical issues through stories about relatable events and individuals. Mother Teresa is Dead, a guest production by The Bleeding Heart Collective, raises a question that has surely occured to almost every Canadian: how can one claim to lead a good life, knowing there is so much poverty and suffering in the world?   The story revolves around Jane, a young woman from London who abandons her husband and son to work with children in India’s slums. The play opens when her husband, Mark, arrives in India to bring her home. Following a mysterious, traumatic incident, Jane has taken shelter at the home of an older British woman named Frances. The play’s action focuses around Mark arguing that Jane has a responsibility to her family back home, while Srivinas, who runs the shelter where Jane volunteered, tries to convince her to remain in India.   Playwright Helen Edumunson uses the scenario as an opportunity to explore the myriad of grey areas around philanthropy, western priviledge, and responsibility to family and community. There are no heroes or villains in the script, just a collection of flawed individuals who each try, in their own way, to live the best life they possibly can.   For this reason, no two audience members will experience the play in quite the same way. Some will condemn Jane as a bad mother because she left her son. Some will see Mark as a bully; others as a scared, pitiable man. A play causing such diversity of opinion is admirable: it stems from audience members exploring their personal thoughts and opinions about challenging issues.   Such a play requires immense sensitivity on the part of the director and performers; they must find a delicate balance in the story’s telling lest their own opinions and beliefs colour the work. Director Evan Frayne does an excellent job in this regard, leading his cast to performances fully guided by the characters’ desires and goals, avoiding any trace of preaching.   As Mark, Sebastian Kroon brings intensity and simplicity to the role. Possessing neither fuse nor guile, his performance is a series of angry, earnest impulses that play upon Jane’s motherly guilt. As object of his outbursts, Julie McIsaac plays a rich, complex, and deeply conflicted character. McIsaac initially appears as a pitiable victim, but soon shows Jane to be a creature of enormous empathy and intellect who, like certain Shakespearean heroes, has thought and felt herself into a prison of her own making.   Entangled with the tempestuous couple are Katharine Venour’s Frances and Kayvon Kelly’s Srivinas. Venour brings a soft-spoken gentleness to the role, painting the image of a woman who found peace in India, but just barely manages to keep hold of it. In a stand out turn, Kelly starts out all good-humoured wit and mannerisms before slyly revealing a dual nature.   Mother Teresa is Dead is a play that will challenge beliefs, provoke thoughts, and make most people feel guilty. While the last may sound unappealing, it is anything but, as Edmundson’s play quickly spins guilt into a great and surprising catalyst for personal introspection.  

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Review: The Taming of the Shrew by Bard on the Beach

Bard on the Beach has launched its 23rd season in Vanier Park with a boisterous, rollicking production of Shakespeare’s great comedy, The Taming of the Shrew. Director Meg Roe, a jewel of Vancouver’s theatre community, crafts a fast-paced, colourful, and borderline cartoon-ish world, populated with heightened, larger-than-life versions of the bard’s familiar characters.   The story is Shakespearean comedy at its best: a complex mess of circumstance that can only be resolved through assumed disguises, scheming servants, battles of wits, and love triumphant. At its heart are Baptista’s (Bernard Cuffling) two daughters; the younger, Bianca (Dawn Petten) is a sweet and adored vision of femininity, while the elder, Kate (Lois Anderson), is the eponymous shrew, a disagreeable hellion. Though Bianca has many suitors, Baptista will not allow her to marry until after Kate has found a husband. When brash, swaggering Petruchio (John Murphy) arrives in Padua looking for a wife, Bianca’s many suitors convince him to pursue Kate and her ample dowry. As Petruchio sets out to tame this shrew, Bianca’s suitors clamor to secure the younger daughter’s affections.   The play is always a silly affair, filled with machismo and posturing, but Bard on the Beach’s production ups the ante far beyond the norm, moving it into a heightened reality that nimbly capers at the border between comedy and farce.   The exaggerated nature of its setting is cleverly introduced through the costume designers of Mara Gottler. The characters’ garb sets the action in early 19th century Italy, but the Empire-era fashions are set off with subtle hints of absurdity: here a top hat is just a bit too elongated, there a gown has a ridiculous excess of lace. The touches are delicate, but more than enough to establish that these over-the-top characters reside on a plane of comic reality above our own.   The inhabitants of this madcap world are portrayed by an incredible cast of local legends and rising stars. In the lead role of Petruchio, John Murphy gives a fresh, sly performance that will surely be looked back upon as a career highlight. With a rich, booming voice, he is the picture of overbearing, masculine confidence, yet for all the bravura, there is ever a sense of warmth, playfulness, and winking delight just beneath the surface. He was especially humorous when paired with his man-servant Grumio (Kayvon Kelly, who may be channeling ‘Charlie’ from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), as the duo’s interactions crackled with perfect timing and joyous wordplay.   Lois Anderson’s eponymous shrew is a hilarious terror. She avoids the increasingly common, apologetic approach of playing an ‘out-of-her-time’ feminist, and instead revels in the vitriol, shrillness, and red-hot rage of Kate. Paired with Murphy’s patient and firm Petruchio, their unconventional courtship is a delight to behold.   The rest of the characters are similarly exaggerated animations, and are brilliantly pulled off by an ensemble of gifted actors and comedians. Together, they paint an antic-filled, two-dimensional world where the bard’s wit gleams in a heightened and giddy light.   The Taming of the Shrew runs until September 22, 2012 at Vanier Park. Tickets & info at Bardonthebeach.org.  

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