Creatively complex creatures

In Vogt’s final series, layered stories obscure meaning, but ultimately shine through chemistry and choreography

Maya Bielinski moves through Kathleen Jerome and Kevin Tanner’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s short fiction “The Happy Prince.”
Maya Bielinski moves through Kathleen Jerome and Kevin Tanner’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s short fiction “The Happy Prince.”
Ray Jacildo performs in Jaclyn Gruenberger’s original piece, the ironic The Most Tragic Coat, directed by Tom Hinchliffe and Radissen Ramoutar.
Ray Jacildo performs in Jaclyn Gruenberger’s original piece, the ironic The Most Tragic Coat, directed by Tom Hinchliffe and Radissen Ramoutar.

Vogt’s curious Creatures production lives up to the studio’s reputation of introducing creative obstacles to their students and delivering the best Queen’s student theatre has to offer.

Vogt Creatures, the final series of one-act plays for the year, presents new elements never seen before in the studio series.

The producers decided to use an alley staging arrangement, which challenges not just the actors, but the audience. Two columns of tiered seating flank the stage, fleshing out the intimate performance, but also reflecting the audience upon itself, creating an awareness of one’s individuality and place in the group.

An expert was brought in to ensure the dynamic new seating arrangement was harnessed to its full effect; a challenge the crew have not merely overcome, but used as an opportunity to experiment with their creativity. This innovative decision adds an excitingly intimate aspect to this already lofty production.

The series opens with an original play by Jaclyn Gruenberger, which offers an ironically humorous adaptation of Greek tragic structure with “The Most Tragic Coat.” Some confusing decisions made by the writer left me with questions such as why a T-Rex would father a Pterodactyl? However, they can be forgiven in light of the directors’ clever use of alley staging.

Along with some cooperation from the audience, the players’ pantomime humour keeps up with the excitement of the rest of the show. But, when the action trails off so does some of the play’s charm.

Costume designers Martine Plourd and Robin Kang capture the whimsical irony of appropriating a Greek tragic arc to a narrative by following the fashion fancies of a flamboyant rhino coveting the coat of a fellow creature. Their simple yet evocative costumes create an energetic opening to the series’ tenacious finalé.

Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” is brought off the pages of his short fiction and onto the stage by Kathleen Jerome and Kevin Tanner with memorable precision. The pair’s aspiration in adapting a short story for the stage is apparent. The alley staging is used inventively and Jonathan Jerome’s original music composition fills the space with a serene score that resonates the “timeless message that leaves a person to wonder.”

Aside from the aesthetic ambiance, the difficulty of adapting a children’s story to the stage is noticeable for the attentive auditor; only so much lip service and jovial dancing can fill in for narrative progression. The play left me wondering, why describe what you can act? Perhaps the added challenge of adapting text to an already unusual seating arrangement was too lofty a goal. However, Wilde’s themes are ever apparent, making the piece rather enjoyable for the casual viewer.

An adaptation of contemporary Canadian author Yann Martel’s latest novel of the same name, “Beatrice and Virgil” features the astonishing chemistry between Katy Littlejohn and Damien Doepping. The duo’s astounding performance will have you holding your breath in anticipation of their next obstacle.

Unfortunately, the play’s theme is disorienting, especially to viewers unaware of the play’s origin. An uncertainty lingers over the relationship of the characters; an effect which was no doubt intentional, but could have been wielded to better effect. As an allegorical representation of the holocaust, the play fails to construe Martel’s sagacious theme, but the players’ memorable performances redeem it.

Lauren DeVries’ original “The Isolation Sensation” gives off an ironically contradictory ambiance, which fits splendidly with the play’s turbulent and enticing aesthetic. A characteristically postmodern milieu looms over the stage as the best choreographed play since Vogt B’s “Hot Chocolate.” The highlight is the frantic action and splendidly salacious costumes.

The players’ intentionally intrusive interaction with the audience at times forces you to confront the audience on the other side of the stage and prompts you to consider your role as a viewer and a person.

The theme of self-awareness emphasizes the deteriorated spoken English; as the syntax deteriorates so does the audience’s hope for significant meaning or expression.

The show offers a quest for meaning that it subverts and never delivers, introverting the conflict onto the audience as if to encourage you to scrutinize your own reality. With heavy thematic content as well as explosive theatrical energy “The Isolation Sensation” is a befitting end to this year’s Vogt Studio series.

Vogt C “Creatures” runs until Sunday at Carruthers Hall with shows at 6:00 and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $4 at the door.

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