Drag phenom Taylor Mac reclaims his image

It is possibly the first and only drag show born out of lazy journalism.

With sequin-encrusted eyes and a sharp tongue, PuSh Festival veteran Taylor Mac brings a unique musical mash-up to the Performance Works stage this weekend, called Comparison is Violence or The Ziggy Stardust Meets Tiny Tim Songbook.

The mouthful of a title arises from repeat descriptions of Mac’s larger-than-life persona. When Mac toured The Be(A) st of Taylor Mac – a solo piece he brought to Vancouver in 2009 – theatre writers across the globe seemed to be of one mind.

Looking for a Missing Employee

What do you do when a man from Beirut’s ministry of finance disappears with a suitcase full of cash? Lebanese visual artist and performer Rabih Mroué decided to follow the paper trail—the newspaper trail, that is.

“I play the role of a detective who looks for a missing employee, but with a special trajectory,” explains Mroué, reached by phone from a performance festival in Minneapolis. “I only follow the newspapers. I don’t go to other sources.”

Paint, sweat and tears make Red

Kim Collier has a hectic few days ahead of her. When the Vancouver-based director wraps her latest production at the Queen Elizabeth on Saturday, she’ll kick off another performance at the Playhouse at the same time.

“I had to give my brain a shake to even think about Red,” Collier says. “This week coming is extraordinarily busy.”

Collier has already poured gallons of paint, sweat and tears into Red: John Logan’s play about abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko. The Tony award-winning script chronicles a tumultuous few days inside Rothko’s New York studio as the painter struggles with a famous commission.

All in the Family

On the heels of the holidays, theatre director Kim Collier has reunited with her Electric Company kin. Best known for genre-bending works of multimedia spectacle, Collier’s latest work is a stripped-down familial affair.

“In this production we’ve brought together a family, literally,” Collier says of All the Way Home, her company’s intimate reimagining of Tad Mosel’s Pulitzer-winning script.

Close-knit is an understatement. Collier is married to cast member Jonathon Young, while Young’s father George plays the part of his dad. Lead actors Meg Roe and Allesandro Juliani are offstage life partners, while young brothers Jordan and Aidan Wessels round out the cast.

VIFF: Dragons & Tigers make noise on the big screen

They’re big. They’re blazing. They’re films from across the Pacific.

With 45 features and 16 shorts, the Vancouver International Film Festival’s Dragons & Tigers series is the largest Asian film program outside Asia.

“That’s true,” confirms Shelly Kraicer, a Canadian film scholar living in Beijing who selected half of the 2011 titles. “The only bigger program looking at Asian cinema is Busan’s festival in South Korea.”

REVIEWS: Performers coax laughs from love and death

It’s no surprise to last year’s Fringegoers: Martin Dockery is neurotic and hilarious.

Following his Pick of the Fringe win for the monologue Wanderlust, Dockery delivers a new barroom tale of travel, relationships, and the occasional experiment with hallucinogenic drugs. This time he’s adventuring through the ancient Cambodian temple Angkor Wat with his German girlfriend, and visiting his stiff but successful father in Vietnam.

Like a true Brooklynite, Dockery quavers with anxiety, flaps his hands wildly and raises his voice in excited crescendo as he delivers each morsel of acute observation. Dockery is searching for meaning in every sentence – giving the impression he’s conquering inner turmoil in real time.

REVIEWS: Houdini story unshackled at Fringe

Monster Theatre’s latest biographical production recounts the life of the King of Vaudeville. Equal parts illusions, melodrama and gags, Houdini’s Last Escape reveals that behind every great man is a great woman—not to mention some seriously awkward mommy issues.

Tara Travis plays Houdini’s loving wife Bess, along with a dozen or more cartoonish side characters. Travis steals the show and gets the crowd roaring with well-placed eye rolls, while Christopher Bange tries out his cache of card tricks as the show’s protagonist. Written and directed by Fringe favourite Ryan Gladstone, the script is dense and surprisingly dark.

REVIEW: Giant Invisible Robot

Occasionally Jayson McDonald takes a moment to breathe, but it’s pretty rare.

In his imaginative one-man show Giant Invisible Robot, McDonald seamlessly weaves through an arsenal of fun-to-watch characters, beginning with a neglected kid named Russell.

Russell’s BFF is the play’s namesake—an oversized tin can of destruction, capable of flattening Chicago during a particularly boring afternoon. McDonald jumps forward and backward in time and across storylines to build up their lifelong relationship.

REVIEW: Little Orange Man

“OMG let’s go ride BIKES!”

It’s a familiar refrain for anyone who has grown up with Attention Deficit Disorder. Performer and co-writer Ingrid Hansen makes it an actual ukulele-accompanied chorus in the inventive tragicomedy Little Orange Man.

Hansen plays Kitt, an over-stimulated schoolyard loner with a wild imagination. Having won over a team of impressionable “kinders” with grampa’s gory fairytales, Kitt is poised to take on the dream world (with a little help from her audience).

REVIEWS: Adventurous acts get site-specific at the Fringe Festival

A crash-landed spaceman and beached whale named Martha make sensible companions under the glow of golden Christmas lights.

This oddball participatory comedy crafted by Seth Soulstein is a two-hander, although the crane makes three.

Clad in silver spandex, a wide-eyed Soulstein proves his improvising chops. Never does he break character—even when a wayward space egg nicks a nearby car. (In the universe of public drama, one has to be prepared for anything).

Wreckage, a work by Nita Bowerman, battles frigid waters, tide changes, jellyfish, underwater visibility and pollution.

Fringe reclaims Vancouver with site-specific theatre

With the Vancouver International Fringe Festival now in full swing, adventurous theatre-goers have a wealth of weird and exciting staged drama to experience.

But in outdoorsy Vancouver, many performances are abandoning the traditional stage in favour of unexpected locations. Even more than in previous years, the festival’s “Bring Your Own Venue” selection boasts a growing hub of local talent.

REVIEWS: Have a cigar with Sigmund Freud’s psyche at the Fringe Festival

Ryan Gladstone is Sigmund Freud, and so is his co-star Bruce Horak.

The pair of local Fringe vets are flawlessly synched as Self and Ego in a lively journey through the subconscious mind of the cigar-chewing father of modern psychology. With only an hour left to live, Freud and his embodied id embark on a hilarious quest of self-analysis . . .

Art and Anarchy

There are many reasons to hate on the Olympics. Housing promises have been abandoned, the cost of living is rising, and millions of city dollars are being wasted—all for the sake of the 2010 Games.

So, if you like art, and want yet another reason to shake a fist at that hideous tooth-shaped Olympic countdown clock, mark your calendars for Friday, March 13. The unlucky night marks the beginning of an underground anti-Olympic art show called Art and Anarchy.

Whale Calling

The Olympics are coming and not even a $478 million in debt is going to stop it. So, to celebrate the impending 2010 Games, the folks at VANOC have arranged a 50-day cultural festival. Yes, the 2009 Cultural Olympiad is upon us.

With over 400 events scheduled from February 1 to March 21 (85 per cent of which are Canadian) this enormous arts expo promises to showcase a whole bunch of super-talented Canucks. Among the ranks of this year’s Cultural Olympians is a young Vancouver band by the name of Said the Whale. On March 6, the upbeat indie five-piece will play the Biltmore Cabaret along with Montreal-based Karkwa and Lucie Idlout from Nunavut . . .

Singing his praises

How do you pay tribute to the man who gave a voice (and a loud one at that) to Vancouver’s most disenfranchised neighbourhood?

Some visit Bruce Erikson Place—a social housing project on Hastings Street erected in his honour. Others have joined the Downtown Eastside Residents’ Association—a charitable community organization Erikson founded in 1973.

But former Vancouver Sun reporter and long-time Downtown Eastside resident Bob Sarti had something different in mind when he wrote Bruce: The Musical.