Tear The Curtain!

Stage and screen collide in Electric Company’s mindbending mixture of mediums

An Electric Company production in association with Vancouver Arts Club Theatre
Presented by Canadian Stage
Written by Jonathon Young and Kevin Kerr
Directed by Kim Collier

Jonathon Young in Tear the Curtain!

theme that is vividly brought to life in Electric Company‘s sexy and suspenseful film/theatre hybrid Tear The Curtain!, which opened Canadian Stage’s 2012/13 season Tuesday night at the Bluma Appel Theatre.

Tear the Curtain! is set in a fictional, film noir Vancouver in the 1930s when the popularity of the cinema and the advent of the “talkies” threatens to replace theatre as the entertainment form of choice. The story follows Alex Braithwaite (played by the charismatic Jonathon Young), a renowned theatre critic whose career is in jeopardy when his Editor (David Adams) decides to cut the newspaper’s theatre section to make room for movie reviews.

After a strange encounter with a portrait painter in the park, Alex believes he has found the legendary Stanley Lee (James Fagan Tait), the former artistic director of an avant guarde theatre company called The Empty Space. With the help of his faithful secretary Mavis (the delightful Dawn Petten), he sets out to write a “think piece” about Lee’s controversial ideas on theatre.

But he loses his grip on reality in the process, falling under the spell of actress and femme fatale Mila Brook (the fabulous Laura Mennell), and eventually finds himself in the middle of a vicious turf war between rival mobsters—movie maker Max Pamploni (Tom Mcbeath) and theatre owner Patrick Dugan (Gerard Plunkett). The result is a feverish, twisted plot that leaves the audience continuously guessing at what will happen next.

Tear the Curtain! begins on a big screen that lifts to reveal a multi-level set, identical to the one being filmed in the cinematic version of the story. The characters move seamlessly from screen to stage, creating the illusion of continuity throughout the performance. Visually striking and often disorienting, the production features stylish costumes by designer Nancy Bryant, sophisticated production design by David Roberts, moody lighting design by Alan Brodie, suspenseful music by Peter Allen and breathtaking cinematography by Brian Johnson.

A mystery bordering on horror, with stereotypes borrowed from classic films, Tear the Curtain! is a reflection of society’s obsession with celebrity, nostalgia and escapism, contrasted with the concept of authentic self-expression. Under director Kim Collier, Young gives a riveting performance as the critic-cum-gumshoe Alex Braithwaite, Mennell is fetching in the role of stage and screen siren Mila Brook, and Petten steals the show with her quirky portrayal of Alex’s assistant Mavis. At two-and-a-half hours long, the production could use tightening, but overall this is a thrilling show that must be seen to be believed.

Tear the Curtain! is truly an out-of-the-ordinary theatre experience. Catch it until October 20 at the Bluma Appel Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. Visit canadianstage.com for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Fri, 2012-10-12 - Sat, 2012-10-20
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