The Train Carr cast

Four Play is a collection of four plays presented by Vancouver’s Studio 58, Langara College’s theater school. The plays are written, performed and produced by both students and recent grads. On through February 14, two plays are shown in rotation each of the performance nights. I attended the opening night of Program A: The Train Carr and Numbers.

Samantha Sue-Pawliuk in The Train Carr
[Samantha Sue-Pawliuk in The Train Carr]

The Train Carr is directed by a beacon of Vancouver theatre, Jane Heyman, and is co-written by students Elan Bertles and Carly Pokoradi. The play takes its inspiration from the memoir Sister and I: From Victoria to London, Emily Carr’s notebook of sketches and antidotes of her train trip across Canada to Montreal (followed by a boat ride to Europe) with her sister Emily. The Train Carr cleverly connects the universal themes of responsibility, creativity, family and life’s purpose.

Samantha-Sue Pawliuk, Camille Legg in The Train Carr
[Samantha-Sue Pawliuk, Camille Legg in The Train Carr]

The one-act play produces laughs, inspiration and a history lesson. All actors are superb in their roles and portray the nuances of their characters with great skill. The early 20th century cadence of language is well captured without being overdone.

Gregory Radzimowski, Camille Legg in The Train Carr
[Gregory Radzimowski, Camille Legg in The Train Carr]

Jennifer Stewart’s set design — incorporating antique suitcases and weathered wood — sets three major scenes: a train, train station and the era. The actors move the suitcases to signify changing scenes and remain in character, allowing their body movements to continue the story between scenes.

Nathan Kay, Amanda Testini in Numbers
[Nathan Kay, Amanda Testini in Numbers]

The second play, Numbers, is a stark contrast to the play it shares the evening with. Taking place in modern-day Afghanistan, it tells the story of a female captain in the Canadian military. Written by Bronwyn Carradine and directed by Kathryn Shaw, Studio 58’s artistic director, Numbers offers a peek into the world of the Canadian military from a woman’s perspective, trying to fit into an organization that’s not always welcoming nor respectful to women.

Issues of sexual harassment, prejudice, rivalry and morality are all conquered in this vignette of angst. The actors are able to physically and emotionally express the perils of a military career. Kudos to the actors who convey sexual harassment and violence and in doing so allow the audience to feel empathy and to not disengage.

The title’s meaning becomes clear at the end as the audience discovers the playwright’s intention: to acknowledge that it is more than numbers.

Lucy McNulty, Amanda Testini in Numbers
[Lucy McNulty, Amanda Testini in Numbers]

Following the performance, two of the actors introduced the audience to the Studio 58 Legacy Fund, to help expand and ensure the future of Studio 58 productions. If these two plays are any indication of the quality of work and talent of its theatrical department, any donation that you can put in the hat at the end of the night will be money well spent. Donation cards are available for larger gifts to the fund.

The quality of these two performances inspire me to return to watch the other two shows: Program B’s The Classroom (by Markian Tarasiuk, directed by Quelemia Sparrow) and Retail: The Musical (written by Kamyar Pazandeh and Carly Pokoradi, directed by Courtenay Dobbie). For additional encouragement visit Studio 58’s Facebook page to watch Four Play’s promotional video.

Brandon Bagg in Numbers
[Brandon Bagg in Numbers]

Program A continues at Studio 58 on Tuesday, Feb 9 at 8 pm, Thursday, Feb 11 at 8 pm, Saturday, February 13 at 8 pm and on Sunday, February 14 at 3 pm. Tickets for programs A & B are only $15 each (plus $2.25 service fee).

Photos by David Cooper.

About Our Contributor MJ Ankenman

MJ Ankenman

MJ moved to Vancouver in 2005 and has been keeping busy ever since, enjoying all that the West coast has to offer, sharing discoveries through her writing and photography. MJ’s interests include yoga, biking, hiking, and enjoying BC wine. Follow MJ on Twitter @urbanista.

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