The Arts Club just announced the inclusion of the Western Canadian Regional Premier of August: Osage Countyto next year’s season. It opens January 27. No word yet on cast or crew, I’ll be keeping an eye peeled.
Tracy Letts junkies unite!
In honour of this auspicious occasion, let’s return once more to the ultimate Letts fan letter, courtesy of the Southern Mothers… (slightly NSFW for blue language. But if that bugs you you ain’t going to like Tracy’s stuff anyhow.)
Caught The History Boys the night before last and I’ve got to say, the Arts Club has gotten off to a crackerjack start to their 45th season. Both Doubt at the Stanley and The History Boys at the Granville Island Stage are fine productions, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give them a bump here. They’re must-see material for anyone with a taste for the type of contemporary theatre that wins the big awards.
Both plays have a certain connectivity, actually, but reside on opposite ends of their respective schools. Although both deal with pedagogical pederasty, most of the reactions to this in Doubt are abject horror while The History Boys are surprisingly nonchalant about the whole affair. This is not a criticism, the victim (or is he?) in the former is in Grade school while the “victims” in the latter are vying for spots at Oxford and Cambridge, and seem to find their eccentric teacher’s manhandling to be rather…bemusing.
The writing of these two Tony winners couldn’t be more different either. Shanley’s Doubt is a clinic in economy of script, there’s not one word in the blindingly fast 90 minutes that doesn’t directly move the play towards its climax, and it wastes no time in concluding. Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, by contrast, is a play presented only for those with, to quote the work itself, “a love of language, a love of words”. It’s a cracking good script with twelve main characters, and clocks in at close to three hours full of lengthy banter and wordplay. It’s a word-nerd’s candy store.
The production design at both theatres has never been better, and the functionality and simplicity of the continually morphing The History Boys set is marvellous. It also claims the distinction of having easily the most kick-ass scene-shift soundtrack I’ve ever heard. I wish I could have bought it.
It must be noted that the three senior members of a mostly young cast – Bernard Cuffling, Duncan Fraser and Jane Noble – performed their roles to about the highest possible level. I can’t imagine that it would be possible to cast a better version of any one of those characters. Simply sterling performances.
It’s no secret amongst her students who Michèle Lonsdale Smith’s all-time favourite playwright is. Well, okay, in truth it’s probably a tie between John Patrick Shanley and Chekhov, but it’s Shanley that she hands out more of in class. Michèle heads up the Lyric School of Acting here in Vancouver, and is also the artistic director of my company; Lyric Stage Project. When Shanley’s mega-hit and mass award-winning (including a Tony for best play and, oh, um…the pulitzer) parable Doubt starting making the scene study rounds a couple of years ago in Michèle’s master class, she would tell whoever she assigned the role of Mrs. Muller to that, just so they knew, she was pretty sure Shanley had written that role just for her, and that one day she was destined to play it when it finally premiered in Vancouver, just you wait. Not to put any pressure on the student, or anything.
Flash forward to this past summer, the Arts Club acquires the rights to said Shanley opus, auditions are held and, well, suffice it to say that sometimes dreams do come true. Doubt opens tonight at the Stanley with Michèle sharing the stage with a dream cast comprised of the Grande Dame of Vancouver theatre; Gabrielle Rose, the incomparable Jonathon Young and the wonderful Sasa Brown. Here’s a first look…
Michèle Lonsdale Smith as Mrs. Muller and Gabrielle Rose as Sister Aloysius, in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Doubt. Photo by David Cooper.
Jonathon Young gets to the point as Father Flynn. Photo by David Cooper
Gabrielle Rose, Sasa Brown as Sister James and Jonathon Young. Photo by David Cooper