Kathleen Duborg and Mike Rinaldi in Electric Company’s You Are Very Star

The Electric Company Theatre’s You Are Very Star is currently underway at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, having opened to a packed house over the weekend. This two act site-specific work begins in 1968, as students and professors are consumed with the launching of the Apollo 8.

Actually, the play starts before you even set foot inside the Space Centre, through an interactive computer program sent to ticket holders via an online link ahead of the show.

Chirag Naik and Marsha Regis in Electric Company’s You Are Very Star
[Chirag Naik and Marsha Regis in Electric Company’s You Are Very Star]

The Electric Company Theatre is fascinated by the role of technology in our lives, especially by how it extends or replaces our physical senses. Invention, the obsession to change the world, the impulse to create, the spirit of the pioneer and the danger and promise of the frontier have been recurring themes in much of their work.

The Space Centre’s auditorium stage is set with period furniture and a small projector that occasionally adds another layer of dimension to the first act. There are several humourous moments that take place but I found the script too chaotic, not allowing the characters to develop in time for the intermission.

This show’s intermission involves a 20-minute hands-on treasure hunt through the Cosmic Courtyard, outside the centre, and in the lobby. The intermission is an interlude, an invitation to partake in the last night of analog. The second act occurs in 2048, where the Star Theatre takes the audience on a completely different ride, one where people are plugged in and convey thoughts in ways we’re not accustomed. The lighting here is pretty amazing, with a glowing ball set high on stage where the MacMillan Planetarium’s projector normally rises out of its pit.

Transcendence is near.

“I try to think like a human, but it’s hard. We’ve changed so fast.”

Marsha Regis, Dalal Badr, and Chirag Naik in Electric Company’s You Are Very Star
[Marsha Regis, Dalal Badr, and Chirag Naik in Electric Company’s You Are Very Star]

This is the recurring theme in act two, as interesting interactions take place between obsolete and augmented citizens. Kathleen Duborg plays a key role in crossing between the two worlds, and does so brilliantly.

Although the stories are linked and feature recurring themes, I found that the second act went on for too long, with a video on the large screen towards the end that could have been cut in half. It didn’t seem relevant to what was happening on stage.

The Space Centre will soon go digital with a new state-of-the-art projection system. The Electric Company’s transmedia event will serve as a farewell of sorts to what many will remember as space-age technology of this era. This is a timely production that will herald in the next wave of high tech at the Space Centre.

Dalal Badr, Patti Allan, Kathleen Duborg
[Dalal Badr, Patti Allan, Kathleen Duborg in Electric Company’s You Are Very Star]

In the end, it’s “The Obsoletes” that had it made. A guitar-strumming Neil (Michael Rinaldi) fittingly confirms it through his antiquated instrument, performing at the foot of the stage.

I imagine that each audience member will take away a different experience from You Are Very Star, and if you’re at all interested in time travel, you might just want to get down to Kitsilano and take in this two and a half-hour unique piece.

You Are Very Star continues through June 29 at the H.R. MacMillan Centre. All photos by Tim Matheson.

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