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theatre review


preview imageTHE NUMBER 14
Arts Club at the
Evergreen Cultural Centre, Coquitlam
November 2-7

(This was Jerry's review of the show the last time it played the Lower Mainland)

Holy RAV line, Batman, the Number 14 bus is back! There’s a reason this show has played over 1000 times on four continents since Axis and Touchstone theatres premiered it here in 1992. If you’ve never seen it, make sure you do--and if you have, go see it again. And bring the kids. I guarantee that everyone will laugh until they’re sore.

Pam Johnson’s set is the inside of a bus travelling along Vancouver’s east-west spine, picking up a bizarre cross-section of our city’s denizens along the way: old and young, rich and poor, annoying and annoyed. The six extraordinarily talented actors play about 60 different characters in 20 skits, sometimes with dialogue but often without. (Axis Theatre used to be called Axis Mime, but be not afeard--this kind of marvellous physical acting should give mime a good name again.) About half the time they wear Melody Anderson’s extraordinarily expressive, often comically grotesque masks, which along with Nancy Bryant’s eccentric costumes and wigs make the show a visual treat.

But front and centre are the hilarious performances. Under Wayne Specht’s ceaselessly imaginative direction, every character is unique, carefully defined, and omigod they’re funny! Some of the many highlights -- an old lady struggling to stay awake; a young man in a brilliant pop-eyed mask watching a realtor get dressed on the bus while she makes a deal on her cell phone; a verbal duel right out of TheatreSports between two Shakespearean actors (“thou testicle of a flatulent sasquatch!”); five twitching, mumbling, unbearably funny old folks morphing into manic kindergarten kids on a field trip to Science World with their brutally cynical teacher (cross-dressed on stilts) -- my favourite scene; a man and woman transforming themselves by turning the pages of magazines they hold in front of their faces; a crazy guy who raps out an absolutely amazing associational doomsday monologue . . .

The actors couldn‘t be better. Bravos across the board for Brian Anderson, Darlene Brookes, Sarah Rodgers, Mike Stack, Courtenay J. Stevens and Allan Zinyk.

Don't miss this bus!

Jerry Wasserman