Village Theatre's fall production celebrates the art of storytelling

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Mention of 1001 Arabian Nights conjures for most the swashbuckling adventures of Aladdin and Ali Baba's 40 thieves. Village Theatre's current production of Mary Zimmerman's The Arabian Nights, now playing at Waterdown's Memorial Hall, is not that story.

The play, an intoxicating explosion of colour, energy and humanity, is an intricate exploration of the power of words.

The base story is that of Sheherezade, who has been condemned to die on her wedding night at the knife of King Shahryar. Her very life - and that of her sister, Dunyazade - depends on her skill at bringing the characters of her vivid imagination to life. As the tale goes, she spins bedtime stories for 1001 nights before Shahryar takes away the threat of death, and allows his bride to live.

Directed by Lisbie Rae (and produced by her husband, Mike), The Arabian Nights is an ambitious choice of material, featuring authentic Middle Eastern dance and music from a live band at the side of the stage, as well as a larger cast than we're used to seeing at the local venue. Many of the 16 actors are also onstage for most of the play; in addition, each cast member is challenged with three or four roles throughout the course of the action.

Nea Reid is mesmerizing as Sheherezade, directing the plays within the play, creating layers of words and stories. Mike Wierenga's Shahryar is her perfect foil, following her deeper and deeper into the world of fantasy, making the transition from grief and anger to wonder and, finally, healing and love.

The audience - and the audience onstage - are equal partners in the world Sheherezade creates, and Zimmerman's work plays with the notion of the listener as participant in the action. From the actors' initial entrance from the floor to the use of lighting and body position, Rae illustrates this connection effectively.

Costume designer Rosie Pypker hits the right note, evoking provocative, colourful pageantry without delving into Las Vegas showgirl territory, while Nikola Patti's set design is stunning, full of shimmering gauze and the rich colours of a Middle Eastern kingdom.

The ensemble cast, although exhibiting varying degrees of ability - and self-consciousness - when it comes to singing and the art of belly dancing, rises to the challenge of the material. While some of the chorus work (speaking in unison) is a little unsure, the over-the-top physical scenes, shrewdly choreographed to look like wild abandonment, more than make up for it.

Village Theatre delayed the opening of its season by more than a month this year, but the wait was definitely worth it. The exotic world of The Arabian Nights is the perfect antidote to a rainy, grey Canadian autumn.

The Arabian Nights continues this weekend (November 17, 18, 19) and next (November 24, 25, 26) at Memorial Hall in Waterdown.

Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door, and are available at JitterBug Java, by calling 905-690-7889 or visiting the web site at www.villagetheatrewaterdown.ca.

Village Theatre's fall production celebrates the art of storytelling

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Mention of 1001 Arabian Nights conjures for most the swashbuckling adventures of Aladdin and Ali Baba's 40 thieves. Village Theatre's current production of Mary Zimmerman's The Arabian Nights, now playing at Waterdown's Memorial Hall, is not that story.

The play, an intoxicating explosion of colour, energy and humanity, is an intricate exploration of the power of words.

The base story is that of Sheherezade, who has been condemned to die on her wedding night at the knife of King Shahryar. Her very life - and that of her sister, Dunyazade - depends on her skill at bringing the characters of her vivid imagination to life. As the tale goes, she spins bedtime stories for 1001 nights before Shahryar takes away the threat of death, and allows his bride to live.

Directed by Lisbie Rae (and produced by her husband, Mike), The Arabian Nights is an ambitious choice of material, featuring authentic Middle Eastern dance and music from a live band at the side of the stage, as well as a larger cast than we're used to seeing at the local venue. Many of the 16 actors are also onstage for most of the play; in addition, each cast member is challenged with three or four roles throughout the course of the action.

Nea Reid is mesmerizing as Sheherezade, directing the plays within the play, creating layers of words and stories. Mike Wierenga's Shahryar is her perfect foil, following her deeper and deeper into the world of fantasy, making the transition from grief and anger to wonder and, finally, healing and love.

The audience - and the audience onstage - are equal partners in the world Sheherezade creates, and Zimmerman's work plays with the notion of the listener as participant in the action. From the actors' initial entrance from the floor to the use of lighting and body position, Rae illustrates this connection effectively.

Costume designer Rosie Pypker hits the right note, evoking provocative, colourful pageantry without delving into Las Vegas showgirl territory, while Nikola Patti's set design is stunning, full of shimmering gauze and the rich colours of a Middle Eastern kingdom.

The ensemble cast, although exhibiting varying degrees of ability - and self-consciousness - when it comes to singing and the art of belly dancing, rises to the challenge of the material. While some of the chorus work (speaking in unison) is a little unsure, the over-the-top physical scenes, shrewdly choreographed to look like wild abandonment, more than make up for it.

Village Theatre delayed the opening of its season by more than a month this year, but the wait was definitely worth it. The exotic world of The Arabian Nights is the perfect antidote to a rainy, grey Canadian autumn.

The Arabian Nights continues this weekend (November 17, 18, 19) and next (November 24, 25, 26) at Memorial Hall in Waterdown.

Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door, and are available at JitterBug Java, by calling 905-690-7889 or visiting the web site at www.villagetheatrewaterdown.ca.

Village Theatre's fall production celebrates the art of storytelling

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Mention of 1001 Arabian Nights conjures for most the swashbuckling adventures of Aladdin and Ali Baba's 40 thieves. Village Theatre's current production of Mary Zimmerman's The Arabian Nights, now playing at Waterdown's Memorial Hall, is not that story.

The play, an intoxicating explosion of colour, energy and humanity, is an intricate exploration of the power of words.

The base story is that of Sheherezade, who has been condemned to die on her wedding night at the knife of King Shahryar. Her very life - and that of her sister, Dunyazade - depends on her skill at bringing the characters of her vivid imagination to life. As the tale goes, she spins bedtime stories for 1001 nights before Shahryar takes away the threat of death, and allows his bride to live.

Directed by Lisbie Rae (and produced by her husband, Mike), The Arabian Nights is an ambitious choice of material, featuring authentic Middle Eastern dance and music from a live band at the side of the stage, as well as a larger cast than we're used to seeing at the local venue. Many of the 16 actors are also onstage for most of the play; in addition, each cast member is challenged with three or four roles throughout the course of the action.

Nea Reid is mesmerizing as Sheherezade, directing the plays within the play, creating layers of words and stories. Mike Wierenga's Shahryar is her perfect foil, following her deeper and deeper into the world of fantasy, making the transition from grief and anger to wonder and, finally, healing and love.

The audience - and the audience onstage - are equal partners in the world Sheherezade creates, and Zimmerman's work plays with the notion of the listener as participant in the action. From the actors' initial entrance from the floor to the use of lighting and body position, Rae illustrates this connection effectively.

Costume designer Rosie Pypker hits the right note, evoking provocative, colourful pageantry without delving into Las Vegas showgirl territory, while Nikola Patti's set design is stunning, full of shimmering gauze and the rich colours of a Middle Eastern kingdom.

The ensemble cast, although exhibiting varying degrees of ability - and self-consciousness - when it comes to singing and the art of belly dancing, rises to the challenge of the material. While some of the chorus work (speaking in unison) is a little unsure, the over-the-top physical scenes, shrewdly choreographed to look like wild abandonment, more than make up for it.

Village Theatre delayed the opening of its season by more than a month this year, but the wait was definitely worth it. The exotic world of The Arabian Nights is the perfect antidote to a rainy, grey Canadian autumn.

The Arabian Nights continues this weekend (November 17, 18, 19) and next (November 24, 25, 26) at Memorial Hall in Waterdown.

Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door, and are available at JitterBug Java, by calling 905-690-7889 or visiting the web site at www.villagetheatrewaterdown.ca.