Review: STEW Program A – tantalizing but a little undercooked

The nice thing about stew is it can contain just about any combination of veggies and meat with an almost limitless number of possibilities for seasoning.  Cooked slowly over time the stew simmers to allow all of its flavours to combine.  And while this first program of the Studio 58 short play series certainly serves up a tantalizing STEW, it does seem to be a little undercooked.

First up is playwright Hannah Johnson’s Disappearing Acts.  Here Johnson gives us a very personal story about grief and guilt whose truest moments happen between brother (Jason Clift) and sister (Kendall Wright).  Unfortunately these wonderful moments of remembrance are lost amongst the rather banal soap opera that encircles them at their mother’s funeral with the fiancée (Stephanie Elgermsa) and the boyfriend (Matt Beairsto).  While it is difficult to know how close the final product here is to Johnson’s real-life story, I did feel like I had seen these characters before.  While it definitely had some flavour, ultimately Disappearing Acts felt a little unevenly cooked.

STEW - 4 Delicious Recipes for New TheatreThe second play of this first program is Rachel Aberle’s Milmish.  Playwright Aberle describes it as an absurdist play and while it certainly contains the ridiculous, it does miss its mark slightly in its moral.  Milmish (Michelle Johnson) is part girl, part frog, who languishes in “Unschool” as her Professor (Pandora Morgan) and her parents (Kirsty Provan and James Elston) try to suppress her proclivity to jumping and eating flies.  One day Greg (Mark Shelling) joins her class and who, like Milmish being taught to reject her frogness, is being taught to reject his homosexuality.  Johnson’s portrayal of Milmish (pictured here in a photo by David Cooper) is an absolute gem and despite what I felt was a confused ending, her work elevates this piece to a whole new level and is in itself worthy of our precious entertainment dollars.  If her performance here is any indication of her talent, Johnson is definitely going places.

While Disappearing Acts is pure meat and potatoes, Milmish is served with tiny savoury dumplings that help us to forget that perhaps the veggies and meat (or should that be flies) need a little bit more time in the pot.  With tickets just $11, this is one night of theatre that is worth it even if it is just to see how it’s not easy being green.

3 out of 5 StarsSTEW – 4 Delicious Recipes for New Theatre
Studio 58, 100 W. 49th Avenue Vancouver
27 January – 7 February 2010

The professional theatre training program at Langara College, presents STEW, 4 new recipes for delicious theatre (previously known as FourPlay). This popular festival of one-act plays features original work by Studio 58 students and for the first time the line-up includes an original musical! All tickets only $11 available online at Tickets Tonight. Visit http://www.langara.bc.ca/studio58 for more information.

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