The magic of film, the magic of theatre, the nail-biting suspense of film noir, the electrifying tension of horror, and an intense intellectual debate on art versus reality and artistic validity -- Tear the Curtain!
exists somewhere beyond an intoxicating artistic hybrid in a world of its own. The show transports the audience into an alternate universe where nothing can be taken for granted. The constant shifting between -- and melding of -- film and theatre creates an ever-changing perspective. That it is done so seamlessly and cleverly makes the disorientation fun and thrilling. The plot and script's hard-boiled film noir overlay comforts the audience with a familiar atmosphere while pushing it into the realm of the surreal. Very few will walk out of Tear the Curtain!
able to say much about the plot or themes, but the images, the mood and an admiration for the power of theatre lingers in the heart and echoes in the brain.
A theatre critic (even in 1930s Vancouver they are apparently a dying breed: "In a credible newspaper, how do you even write about movies? I suppose that next the restaurant reviews will cover hot dogs." Fab
has already stooped to hot dogs
, so we have no qualms) discovers a theatre company that has created a technique that rips the fabric between reality and the subconscious. Or something like that. In true film noir -- and alternative theatre/performance art -- style, the hows and whys are skipped over so the evocative power of words and images can be savoured. The mad director has a wonderful speech -- echoed later, but not as effectively, by the lead -- wherein he lists the wonderful properties of words and their ability to influence. The plot spins and twists and the ideas spark, but what really matters is the inebriating atmosphere. Antonin Artaud and Jean Genet -- both gay and both referenced emphatically -- may have been philosophers and idealists, but they also knew how to entertain. So does Tear the Curtain!
The cast is uniformly compelling, despite having to compete with themselves on a big screen in closeup and having to adhere to tightly choreographed cues to match the changes in reality. Many are familiar from those television shows shot in Vancouver that appear on Space and Showcase, but that sort of everyman quality adds to the atmosphere and makes them all the more endearing. Jonathon Young -- who also co-wrote Tear the Curtain!
and is a founder of the Electric Company, which created and produced -- is a lovable anti-hero the audience can relate to as he ascends into the surreal. He even manages to hold attention during the one misstep, where a speech goes on just a fraction too long and can't be sped up or changed because of the lockstep demands of the filmed segments. Laura Mennell churns up a sexy storm as Mila the idol, while Dawn Petten as the sidekick has stunningly expressive eyes that she uses to hilarious effect in the film segments. The rest of the cast play numerous roles and the switches are fast, effective and believable. One stunning vista flows into another, yet we never lose track of where we are -- except when we lose track of reality, and by then we are confident in how we are being led.
Tear the Curtain!
brims over with ideas, and the concept of a mafia war between film and theatre is hilarious and timely (it definitely echoes through the decades). It leads to one of the best sight gags I've ever seen, when the identity of "Liberty" is revealed. The audience can soak in and debate the riffs and ideas, but it's just as much -- maybe more -- fun to soak in the atmosphere, laugh at the parody and puzzle at the admittedly convoluted plot. Nothing wrong with theatre of ideas also being an entertaining night out.
Tear the Curtain! runs till Sat, Oct 20 at the Bluma Appel Theatre, 27 Front St E. canadianstage.com