Cool Beans cast

Andi loves Holden. Holden loves Meadow. Patrick also loves Meadow. Meadow is not sure she really needs to love anyone at the moment. How this will all work out will take a very satisfying 84 minutes to resolve itself in Solo Collective’s Cool Beans.

Set in a slightly twee independent Vancouver coffee bar, we are introduced to twenty-something proprietor Meadow and her helpmate and lover Holden. Meadow is the brains of the operation while Holden is the affable doofus barista who very much reflects the easy-going but principled ambivalence modern day hipsters enjoy. Entrepreneurial Meadow thrives while affecting the persona of a yoga/Green Party enthusiast as she recovers from a traumatic past experience.  

Andi has an unrequited crush on Holden. Nerdy girl that she is, she spends every waking moment when not at college pursuing publicly her private infatuation. The pre-occupied Holden is oblivious to her desire.

Enter the affluent Patrick, former paramour to Meadow, looking to reclaim his former love by whatever means. Getting Andi and Holden together seems like a very good bet indeed.

With this setup, young playwright Anton Lipovetsky fills the stage with a steady stream of wholly believable starts and stops, words and tunes. While not derivative, a way to imagine the proceedings is to take a heavy dose of 1960’s Bye Bye Birdie’s Hugo and Kim’s puppy love and layer in lightly Roger and Mimi’s feverous relationship of 1996’s Rent. True love never runs smooth.

Off in the corner, music director/accompanist Mishelle Cuttler expertly works her piano for the 13 tunes that Mr. Lipovetsky has supplied. No music fillers here — each lyric and phrasing is integral to plot or character development. Given the quality of score and performances, I believe a cast recording would be both a commercial and critical success.

There are many subtle comic asides and laugh-out-loud moments. Pharmaceuticals aka Cool Beans are referenced often and to great effect. Ideas and images come quickly and deftly to keep the audience on the edge of their seats physically and on the tips of their toes mentally. Be warned, the menace of heartache is omnipresent.

The cast is wonderful. I was particularly struck by Katey Hoffman (Andi). Her transition from wall flower to femme fatale is seamless. Her energy and vivacity is intoxicating and reliably moves the show into overdrive when she gets to act out. 

At first Josh Epstein as Patrick seems too smooth and one dimensional to be anything more than an easy device to move the play forward. When his motivation to us revealed, a sea change in my feelings toward his characterization occurred. What seemed superficial suddenly gelled into an entirely coherent and nuanced study.

Jay Clift as Holden is terrific. While it could be argued he is around to provide mostly comic relief in very tight range, I would submit that his inherent good-heartedness has to convincingly counterbalance the deviousness of the self-centered Patrick. That the Andi character was able to become so attracted to him was not only plausible but completely understandable.

Yes, the production is very much an ensemble piece but it is the character of Meadow the play revolves around. Gili Toskies is letter perfect in projecting the innate intelligence of a mature, if flawed, young woman. She sings and acts with purpose and grace. In a lesser actor’s hands, the play ending would have seemed contrived, maybe outlandish. I came away thinking it logical and sincere.

While the audience I attended with was decidedly of university age, I’ve come to think the story presented is timeless. Maybe more than just maybe, the Metro Theatre crowd would be much pleased to relive their youth through the souls of these cool beings. They and just about everyone else who has ever loved and lost.

Cool Beans continues at Performance Works through December 1.

About Our Contributor Larry Ghini

Larry Ghini

Larry Ghini enjoys Vancouver's vibrant theatre scene and has taken in many productions over the years. He holds a BA in Sociology from Simon Fraser University. Larry is financially involved with the film Eadweard Muybridge, produced by Josh Epstein, directed by Kyle Rideout, and starring Michael Eklund.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.