Author: Eddie Tafber

The Secret Doctrine

The seemingly eternal fight between religion and science, and the interaction between spirituality, matter and energy: Those are the basic postulates that mark SFU Contemporary Arts Faculty’s most recent play, “The Secret Doctrine”. This substantial work is based in the real story Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891), widely regarded as a pioneer of the modern New Age movement and founder of the Theosophical Society. The play takes the audience through an amazing storyline that follows Richard Hodgson (Frank Zotter), a young Canadian physicist, in his pursuit to untangle the mysteries behind the paranormal phenomena attributed to Helena Blavatsky (Gabrielle Rose) from a scientific perspective. His efforts get him to follow Blavatsky all the way to India, where Blavatsky and her most loyal disciple, Henry Olcott (Simon Webb) have moved by spiritual orders from the ‘Mahatmas’. There, Hodgson gets to study Blavatsky and to interact with some of her followers and detractors, while attempting to scientifically prove (or reject) Blavatsky’s powers and theories – despite her constant refusals to allow Hodgson to perform such investigations. This production is noted by the richness of the special sound and lighting effects used throughout the play, along with ambience music to create mystical environments. The work by Martin Gotfrit (Sound Designer) is especially outstanding. Also noteworthy is the ability to create a multidimensional experience for the audience, where the play does not only happen on...

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Avenue Q

Artsclub closes its 49th season this summer by bringing a Broadway classic to Vancouver: The much acclaimed and Tony-Award winning musical Avenue Q, a show known for its hilarious and daring touch which crosses the boundaries into what could be considered vulgar and obscene. Nevertheless, the whole show does not feel like as such. Rather, it feels like an escape valve to openly laugh at normally supressed topics. Avenue Q clearly takes elements from another classic children’s TV show, Sesame Street –for those of us old enough to remember it- such as the use of puppets who interact with humans, the use ‘educational’ pop ups, and children-sounding songs. However, unlike Sesame Street, Avenue Q’s purpose is not exactly to educate the audience. On the contrary, this play provides the audience an opportunity to step away from routine political correctness and to laugh at every day and social issues that laughing about is otherwise seen as taboo. Some of those topics include ethnic and racial stereotypes, sex, immigration, drug abuse, and income inequality. The storyline lies around Princeton, a recent graduate from college who is trying to define his purpose in life. Having landed a new job, he looks to relocate outside of the college campus. After seeking accommodation in several neighbourhoods, he finds an affordable apartment to rent on Avenue Q. There, he gets to meet his new neighbours:...

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John Ferrie – Red Skies

John Ferrie’s love for Vancouver is the keynote of his newest painting collection, appropriately named “Red Skies”. He presented it at his studio on East 2nd Avenue, with the attendance of friends, onlookers, art lovers, and media representatives. The collection consists of several pieces depicting some of Vancouver’s most prominent landmarks, all of which lie under a deep red sky. The paintings, of course, are beyond simple portraits of the city: They all have John Ferrie’s own particular artist touch, which give life and feeling to each of his paintings. That way, iconic buildings such as the BC Place, the City Hall, Tinseltown and The Lookout, just to name a few, get life through the slightly surrealist style of Ferrie – and of course, always under an imponent red sky. But why should skies be red? About this collection, John Ferrie explained to Taste and Sip that the red colour is unpredictable, is different and unusual, which provides an interesting twist of other portraits of Vancouver. As for the specific landmarks chosen for his work, Ferrie explains that “Vancouver is always changing”, and so are the buildings of the city, “it is important to capture them before they are torn down”. Of course, Red Skies is only one of the projects in the mind of Ferrie. After the success of Red Skies, Ferrie is already working in other projects...

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How has my Love Affected You

It’s difficult to describe Marcus Youssef’s latest play, “How has my love affected you”, in simple words. It is at times a hard to digest set of stories, sometimes with a funny twist, and having occasional (and unpredictable) ups and downs. At the end of the day, the mix of emotions reflects appropriately the subject of the play: Real life. This work, largely a monologue by Marcus Youssef himself, focuses largely on the troublesome relationship between him and his mom throughout the years, and the ways in which it has shaped and changed his life. Marcus, in an almost therapeutic fashion, does a magnificent storytelling job to inject in the audience diverse emotions throughout his real life anecdotes and reflections. Marcus’ crude story is greatly helped by the musical interventions by his own son, Zak, who showcases some of his musical talents throughout the 90 minute long play. Other than the music, Marcus’ monologue is accompanied by very few (but effective) special effects, which include mainly variations in the lighting and visual clues. The show is written by Marcus Youssef and directed by Rachel Ditor. It is presented by Artsclub at the Revue Stage, on Granville Island, from February 28 to March 23,...

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Sisters

On the night of February 1st, 2012, the Gateway theatre presented the worldwide premier of playwright Simon Johnston’s play “Sisters”. This work, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s play by the same name, is characterized by an uneasy storyline that touches elements of cultural differences, social status, and political ideologies. Set in the early 20th century, “Sisters” is the story of the ascent and decline of a Russian family living in China during the rise of communism, which shifts the social balance in unpredictable ways. The once-smooth life of sisters Irena (Luisa Jojic) and Masha (Sarah Louise Turner), as well as their service lady Anfisa (Donna White) slowly becomes more difficult as communism takes over their once aristocratic lives, which is also reflected at home in the relationship with Irena and Masha’s Chinese sister in law, Natasha. The overall political climate, as well as the tense situations developing at home, will take the sisters to new ways of thinking and facing day to day life. The play is helped by an outstanding work in the special light effects and numerous props, which certainly provide the atmosphere to “feel” the evolving story. The set design is superb, as well as the simple, yet effective costumes used throughout the play. “Sisters” runs for about two hours plus an intermission. “Sisters” is directed by Sarah Rodgers and presented from January 30 until February...

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