Giving thanks for theatre: the long weekend on E-town stages

 

Dead Centre of Town XII. Photo by Mat Simpson.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

It’s the moment to be thankful for Edmonton’s most captivating arts asset – our theatre scene. Many possibilities are waiting for you this weekend, including a macabre entertainment spun from our own neglected history. And the Thanksgiving festivities include your last chance to see the splendid season-opener at the Citadel, the fun finale of the Teatro La Quindicina season, and a varied assortment from indie companies and our venerable community theatre. The crack Mayfield season-opener continues. And, well, have a peek….

•There’s a first for everything. Last night, on the way out of a show, I stepped over a corpse.

Cautiously. Not least because the dead have a way of not staying deceased, much less buried, in Dead Centre of Town. On my route to the 12th annual edition of Catch The Keys Production’s graveside historical explorations, a dead body with a chalky face triumphed over rigor mortis and bestirred himself to make eye contact. So did a macabre greeter swinging an axe. Autumn nights in Fort Edmonton Park — currently under widespread re-construction but strung with twinkling lights and haunted by unnerving sounds — can be like that. 

A ghostly prairie farmhouse with washing hung on a line is an eerie sight in the moonlight. And the bang of a classic screen door slamming behind you can be downright gothic. It’s the Mellon Farm, in its original location (on 1920 Street at the Fort). And Dead Centre of Town XII tells its stories there, snatched by playwright Megan Dart from the murky grave where Edmonton history lies mouldering, in the decade between 1918 and 1929. 

In this edition you’re up close in and around a house of unidentifiable flickering light, crammed with dusty objets from past lives (birdcages containing broken crockery instead of budgies, defunct lanterns, candles, a magic mirror, a piano strung with cobwebs…). And you’re rubbing shoulders with the ghosts of hollow-eyed poisoners, mass murderers, mothers with morbid connections to their children, dubious widows (presiding ghoul: Colin Matty). 

Outside, graves are marked, and have their own soundtrack: “The bells of hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling…. O death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling.” The look of the past is the department of The October People; the sound haunting is courtesy of Michael Caron.

I mustn’t tell you more about what you’ll learn. Except to say that nary a soul mentions E-scooters, potholes, snow clearance, taxes. The only money you see is stained with blood.

Dead Centre of Town XII runs through Nov. 1, with tickets available at catchthekeys.ca and eventbrite.ca. Check out my PREVIEW conversation with playwright Megan Dart, who’s into disturbing reveals, and hints of the great beyond.   

•Speaking as we are of disturbances, one of the Shakespeare canon’s most unsettling, and perennially topical, studies of master manipulation opens the season at the U of A’s Studio Theatre: Richard III. Richard III, who cuts a wide and murderous swatch through his relatives en route to the crown,  sets himself a test case for spin and gamesmanship when he celebrates assassinations that “leave the world for me to bustle in.”

Max Rubin, who directed not one but two challenging plays at the Fringe (Patrick Marber’s After Miss Julie and Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party) acquires a master’s degree with this contemporary Richard III, which brings modern technology to the enterprise, and runs tonight through Oct. 19 on the Timms Centre stage. Apparently, the play hasn’t been seen in a Studio season since 1976, so it’s time. Tickets: ualberta.ca/artshows, 780-492-2495.

LAST CHANCE…

Tara Jackson, Karen Burthwright in The Color Purple. Citadel Theatre. Photo by Ian Jackson, Epic Photography.

•At the Citadel, the season has cracked wide open with The Color Purple, a musical with a powerful validation of the black experience and a universal story of self-discovery. 12thnight talked to the in-demand director Kimberley Rampersad, the first black woman to direct a professional production, and the electrifying star Tara Jackson, who tears into the role of Celie with heart, and urgency: meet them HERE. The 12thnight.ca review is HERE. The Color Purple runs on the Citadel MainStage through Sunday. Tickets: 780-425-1820, citadeltheatre.com. 

Andrew MacDonald-Smith, Belinda Cornish, Helen Belay, Chris Pereira in Vidalia, Teatro La Quindicina. Photo by Mat Busby.

•At the Varscona, the Teatro La Quindicina season (which runs counter-clockwise to the E-town norm) lands a highly entertaining finale with a revival of Stewart Lemoine’s frothy screwball comedy Vidalia. Saturday’s two performances are your last chance to have the fun of seeing it. 12thnight talked to the playwright and two Teatro stars, Belinda Cornish and Andrew MacDonald-Smith about the precise and peculiar demands of screwball comedy. Check our their thoughts HERE. And have a peek at my 12thnight.ca review HERE. The production Tickets: teatroq.com

•The season at Walterdale, Edmonton’s impressively ambitious community theatre, opens this week with Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson (who happens to be the San Francisco-based playwright who wrote one of the continent’s most-produced plays, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley).

Silent Sky, Walterdale Theatre.

The versatile opera/ theatre artist Kim Mattice-Wanat directs the piece, which chronicles the struggles of the brilliant but marginalized turn-of-the-century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt to forge a career for herself in male-dominated science. Silent Sky, starring Lauren Hughes, runs at Walterdale through Saturday. Tickets: TIX on the Square (780-420-1757, tixonthesquare.ca).

Open Invitation, Saint Maggie Productions.

Open Invitation, running through Oct. 12 at the Backstage Theatre (ATB Financial Arts Barns, 10330 84 Ave.), is an original one-act comedy by the indie theatre troupe Saint Maggie Productions. Crossed wires at a date-night dinner party: that’s the setting for the new comedy, created collaboratively by the ensemble. Anita Bourgeois directs a cast of six that includes Saint Maggie artistic director Nicole Grainger. Tickets: fringetheatre.ca.

CONTINUING …

•At the Mayfield Dinner Theatre, Million Dollar Quartet, there’s a whole lotta shakin goin on. Through Oct. 26 a superior jukebox musical with a hot cast continues to re-create that indelible December afternoon in 1956 when four of the greats — Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis — descended on a Memphis recording studio, and jammed. My 12thnight.ca review is HERE.

 

    

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