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vancouverplays review

 

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— Bree Greig, Veda Hille, J. Cameron Barnett, Selina Martin, Barry Mirochnick, Dmitry Chepovetsky in Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata. Photo by David Cooper.

DO YOU WANT WHAT I HAVE GOT? A CRAIGSLIST CANTATA
By Bill Richardson and Veda Hille
Arts Club Theatre Company
Presented with the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival
Revue Stage, Granville Island
Jan. 19–Feb. 18
$25/$35
604-687-1644 or www.artsclub.com

(This is Jerry's review of the original Arts Club/PuSh Festival production from 2012)

Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata

The Arts Club and PuSh Festival have given birth to the first must-see show of this year and one of the most unique and entertaining theatrical concoctions this town has seen in many a year.

Offbeat geniuses Bill Richardson and Veda Hille have shaped into a series of musical movements and remarkable songs the often strange and sometimes poignant postings found on Craigslist—all that weird stuff for sale or for free, and the curious personal musings of odd and lonely people. Stitched together by four terrific performers under the inspired direction of Amiel Gladstone, Do You Want What I Have Got? is a hilarious and unexpectedly moving experience.

Some bizarre items get only a quick hit, a musical line or two. “Children’s guillotine for sale.” “Need Sarah Palin lookalike for adult film.” “I will pay you one dollar to sit in my bathtub full of noodles.” Others, like a young woman offering her collection of 300 stuffed penguins, become fully developed stories, revelations of the inner lives of people we never talk to in elevators or Starbucks. The prevalence of loneliness and the need for connection are common themes, climaxing in the song, “I Was the One Who.”

The term “cantata” might suggest sacred texts set to music by Bach. The Richardson-Hille compositions are pointedly secular: sometimes satirical in the tradition of Tom Lehrer, sometimes reminiscent of Sondheim in their lyrical cleverness and subtle human drama. But Hille’s exquisite musical direction, utilizing complex harmonies, rhythms and reprises, gives the material a feeling of the spiritual, even the sublime.

She sits behind a piano and sings solo or unobtrusively harmonizes with one or more of the singers. None of them has an especially high profile in Vancouver but they combine beautifully as an ensemble and all stand out individually. Joining them on the almost bare stage is Barry Mirochnick on drums and guitar. 

With the purest voice of the four, wide-eyed Bree Greig performs the penguin number as well as a fabulous extended riff on looking for a roommate. Compulsively correcting spelling and grammar in the Craigslist ads, Selina Martin is very funny—and she plays the musical saw. Dmitry Chepovetsky and J. Cameron Barnett are all-around terrific, and Barnett blows a mean sax.

Darryl Milot provides a nice variety of costumes and John Webber’s low-level lighting beautifully helps set the tone. Director Gladstone finds fresh ways of presenting each beat so the 90 minutes fly by.

These folks have got it. And yes, I want what they have got. So will you.

Jerry Wasserman