Theatre review: The Number 14 is a real trip

Having personally boarded The Number 14 for the fourth (or is it fifth?) time in its 20 years history, it is a testament to the show’s power that there are still new bits to discover and still plenty of laughs.

Told in a series of comedic sketches over its two hour ride, the cast of six (Christopher Adams, Morgan Brayton, Stefano Giulianetti, Neil Minor, Sarah Rodgers and Scott Walters), channels a seemingly endless array of zany characters using a variety of theatrical conventions including masks, acrobatics, dance and even an original rap.

Anyone that has taken a ride on the real #14 bus from Hastings to UBC will immediately relate to the characters that get on: the seniors on their way to Bingo, the class of youngsters off to Science World or even the real-estate agent who uses the bus to not only conduct business, but uses it as her personal dressing room.  Sure the characters are all hyper-realized, but each is so firmly footed in reality that they are instantly recognizable and relatable.

Members of the cast of the Axis Theatre Company production of The Number 14.  Photo by David Cooper.
Members of the cast of the Axis Theatre Company production of The Number 14.  Photo by David Cooper.

Even though not everything works and sometimes the sketches out-stay their welcome, the best thing about The Number 14 is you only have to wait a few minutes for a more interesting character to climb onboard; just like on the real thing.

The cast is fearless; whether it is Morgan Brayton willing to show a little “ass” or the amazing acrobatics of Neil Minor, their enthusiasm for the material spills into the audience in big buckets.  And while Melody Anderson’s masks help, they are no less amazing than the expressions the actors conjure without them.

Director Wayne Specht keeps the bus moving along as if constantly trying to make up time to get to the next stop and while Pam Johnson’s set is beginning to show its age, it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise given the mileage it has seen over the past two decades.

The end of a truly remarkable ride and an equally remarkable Vancouver theatre success story, you don’t want to miss The Number 14 on its final trip; get onboard.

4 Out of 5 Stars The Number 14

Conceived and written by Melody Anderson, Peter Anderson, Gina Bastone, Colin Heath, David Mackay, Wayne Specht, Roy Surrette and Beatrice Zeilinger.  Additional material developed by Darlene Brookes, Tom Jones and Alan Zinyk.  Directed by Wayne Specht.  An Axis Theatre Company production.  On stage at the Waterfront Theatre through November 18, 2012.  Visit http://www.axistheatre.com for tickets and information.

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