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CENTRE STAGE: Touchstone Theatre brings back Late Company; DanceHouse brings Brazil’s Companhia Urbana de Dança to Vancouver

Stunning dialogue-driven theatre and an impressive dance show had the Playhouse on its feet

Companhia Urbana de Dança brought joy and passion from Brazil to Vancouver.
Companhia Urbana de Dança brought joy and passion from Brazil to Vancouver.

Late Company

Touchstone Theatre

March 29–April 2 at the Evergreen Cultural Centre

April 5–9 at the Vancity Culture Lab

Debora Shaun-Hastings reads a letter aloud to her dinner guests. She describes coming home with her husband, Michael, one evening not long ago. She remembers being annoyed that her son, Joel, hadn’t left the outside light on for them. They assumed Joel must be asleep already. Once she got upstairs, she noticed that the bathroom door was closed and went to open it. Lying in the tub was Joel, as if asleep, a large pool of blood on the floor. She described running to him, slipping in the blood; she shook her son, checking for any signs of life while lifting him up out of the tub. Slipping again on the blood, she fell, Joel’s body landing on top of her.

Linda Quibell gave an emotional, heart-wrenching performance as Debora, a grief stricken mother hoping to find some kind of closure or emotional release by inviting Curtis, her son’s classmate who had bullied him, and his parents over for dinner. They plan to exchange letters and discuss how they are all feeling in the hopes that this exercise will provide some kind of solace.

Tamara, Bill, and Curtis are late arriving, and just as Debora and Michael discuss whether the whole thing is such a good idea and are about to choose a safe word, the doorbell rings. Their initial greetings are as awkward as can be expected under the circumstances. Things seem to be going well as the mothers discuss their similar taste in books, and the fathers realize their share an alma mater, but as the night wears on they all struggle to contain their true emotions. Blame is thrown back and forth as Debora blames Curtis’s actions for Joel’s suicide and Tamara suggests that Joel’s depression and Michael’s absence as an MP in Ottawa explains it. Bill suggests that Joel was asking for it by wearing eyeliner to school and openly presenting himself as gay.

Playwright Jordan Tannahill has created a gripping masterpiece of dialogue-driven theatre that deals with themes of sexuality, bullying, parenting, politics. Touchstone Theatre originally mounted this play in 2014, and director Katrina Dunn returns along with most of the original cast who all give exceptional performances. The story immediately draws you into the lives of these characters all looking for some kind of relief from their grief, but the story shows us that they may be no such thing as closure and an emotional letter of apology is not going to change a mother’s grief for her lost son.  

 

ID: Entidades and Na Pista

Companhia Urbana de Dança

April 1–2 at the Vancouver Playhouse

Everyone in the Playhouse audience was on their feet, clapping and dancing along to “Uptown Funk.” On stage, the dancers of Companhia Urbana de Dança showed off even more of their stunning moves during their energetic encore. I have rarely seen a dance audience so enthusiastic, nor have I seen an ovation go on that long — we stayed standing for the encore and revelled in the joy and exuberance of these dancers from the favelas of Brazil.

Choreographer Sonia Destri Lie explained during the pre-show talk that her company receives no funding from the Brazilian government nor from corporate sponsors, so it is very difficult to get by and she, along with her dancers who come from the favelas (slums) of Brazil is doing this for their sheer love of dance. That love is evident onstage, and along with the emotion pouring forth from them, the dancers were incredibly talented.

The first piece, ID: Entidades began in darkness, the dancers sitting hunched over at the back of the stage. One by one they begin moving around the stage with grace and strength. The eight men and one woman displayed their hip-hop- and breakdance-inspired moves and impressed with physical feats that were beautiful and full of emotion.

   Na Pista was much more upbeat and began with the dancers coming down the aisles, calling to each other and admiring their nice party outfits. After assembling onstage, they danced around a grouping of chairs at centre stage in a highly entertaining game of musical chairs. The chairs were then lined up at across the back of the stage and they took turns coming forward to perform. This piece was a lot of fun with a high energy party atmosphere, disco ball, and humorous moments such as their synchronized water breaks.

It’s baffling that a company this talented is not embraced in their home country as they are elsewhere. Destri Lie explained that Brazil is a very racially segregated and prejudiced country, and because her company is full of black dancers, they are discriminated against.

They may not be able to fill a theatre in Rio de Janeiro, but they had the entire Playhouse Theatre mesmerized two nights in a row.   

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