by James Long and Maiko Bae Yamamoto
Theatre Replacement
ScotiaBank Dance Centre
February 3-12
604-257-0366 or

James Long and Maiko Bae Yamamoto are two of the most talented young theatre artists in the city. Along with their colleagues at boca del lupo, they have been in the forefront of Vancouver's theatrical renaissance of the past few years. Theatre Replacement is their new company, a kind of spin-off from boca, and this is its first production, presented in conjunction with the PuSh Festival. With collaborators like Adrienne Wong, lighting designer Itai Erdal, Toronto director Darren O'Donnell, and Veda Hille doing the music, expectations were high. The Empty Orchestra is a sweet little show. But it still feels more like a workshop piece or work in progress than a finished product.

We're in a frozen city, literally and metaphorically, in a dystopian future where the weather is always cold and "where laws are made to protect those who least need protection." An authoritarian Christian fundamentalist government has taken power, and among other things they've banned all music and singing. Even listening to music is a capital crime.

In side by side rooms, Long is an uptight Christian matchmaker, Yamamoto the leader of a cell of underground revolutionaries whose transgressive act is to sing karaoke. In her shocking pink wig she insists that "fun is political," and sings ("Smooth Operator" and other tunes) to evoke a sense of warmth in the audience, to try to melt the ice inside and out. Long hears her, resists her at first, then gradually joins her until they become lovers and sing a duet of "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

Both performers are extremely likable, and Yamamoto has a very nice voice, though not a great one. But there's not really a whole lot happening here. Even at only 90 minutes the show feels padded. The political allegory is undeveloped and the integration of the audience into the action seems tentative. What I found most effective were the video projections by Meesoo Lee, ranging from a beautiful abstract snowfall to a mesmerizing chase scene straight out of Wild Kingdom. When the best thing in a show about the power of sound is the visuals, that should tell you that you need another draft or two.

Jerry Wasserman


last updated: Sunday, February 6, 2005 9:55 PM
website design by Linda Fenton Malloy