Jan 20–23, 8pm The Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre, SFU
(The theatre's address is 149 West Hastings St, but you will have to enter at Cambie and Cordova. Look carefully for the small, unlit paper signs with hand drawn arrows that will guide you through the maze of scaffolding and construction materials to the entrance.)
“John said this would be ‘interactive’,” Robyn whispered as we sat in the blacked out theatre, and “Let the Sunshine In,” from Hair played overhead. This was already the second song to play while the audience sat in the dark—the first was from West Side Story—so I started to expect a medley of famous musical numbers wound around a “Chorus Line”-esque story, and somewhere in there we’d all get to sing along, audience and performers together. But by the time the performers finally came onstage—casual clothes, slack postures, impassive faces—I realized that this show would be minimal, or minimalist, or, um, an experiment in minimalism, so as to include us, the audience, in the performance, and that there would be a lot more meaningful silences, more sitting in the dark, and not a lot of story. (And no, I didn't read the PuSh notes prior to the show.)
Each song's choreographed segment/performance, those that had one, was reminiscent of theatre class warm-up exercises and was interesting or funny for the first 20 seconds, and then I wanted the show to get going, I still wanted something to happen. We could have left like some audience members, but I was sure something was going to happen, some truth revealed, some elementary hook that would connect everything and engage everyone, so while I waited, I let myself drift into memories brought forth by some of the songs—like “The Sounds of Silence”, which took me to my sixth grade music class which was solely focussed on the music of Simon & Garfunkel, and I remembered the smell of the varnish of my desk as I put my head down and wondered how I would ever survive the tyranny of my teacher, Mr Hennig—and I watched the couple in the middle row dance in their seats to each song because they felt they had to, and I hummed along to “Imagine” because I’ll admit I don’t know all the words. But when the first notes of the eponymous song began, I conceded defeat, that the high-minded meta-theatrical experience this show aimed to provoke was not the experience I had.
Afterwards, the four of us walked around the Woodwards complex and puzzled over the show, then puzzled further over the architectural model display in the atrium. Apparently, such constructions as the Brentwood SkyTrain Station and Surrey' s City Hall contribute to my concept of "Vancouverism". I had no idea I lived in an ideology and not a city. Thankfully, the curatorial statement clearly explains the worldly importance of American architects in general, and of Vancouverism in particular:
My next PuSh outing is Nevermore, Jan 21–Feb 6, 8pm (Tuesdays 7:30pm), Arts Club Theatre Company - Granville Island Stage. I'm looking forward to it. (And no, I'm not going to read the PuSh notes beforehand.)