Morris Panych is one of the country’s leading playwrights and a first-class portrayer of the cantankerous, the melancholic, and all things down in the mouth. In this 2010 black comedy, Gordon (Todd Thomson) and his crony Carl (Patrick Costello) are a pair of young miscreants who take refuge in Papa Gord’s rundown home where they’re forced to face the miserable music. The excellent Andrew Wheeler has the role of the disappointed father. Panych himself directs this West Coast premiere. Revue Stage, March 1 to 24 ( artsclub.com ).
Those who missed the Canadian premiere of John Patrick Shanley’s brilliant and Pulitzer Prize-winning play (back in 2008) should rejoice in being given a second chance. A more modest production at Pacific Theatre shouldn’t diminish Shanley’s no-frills story of a progressive 1960s priest who becomes an object of obsessive worry for Sister Aloysius, an orthodox nun convinced he’s abusing a student. Pacific Theatre, March 2 to 31 ( pacifictheatre.org).
Fans of gothic extravagance always revel in the (insistently) grotesque staging that accompanies Catalyst Theatre’s work. These folk have made a real name for themselves taking classic items from the literary canon and expressing them as a dream someone had while taking acid. (The effect is both fantastic and easy to digest.) Their touchingly sad Frankenstein was a hit here, as was their Nevermore (on the tortured life of Edgar Allan Poe). Now it’s the Hunchback’s turn. The hopeless, obsessive love of malformed Quasimodo for the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda is given a highly visual rendering. Take someone who thinks he doesn’t like theatre: Catalyst’s productions – with all their steam-punk gear, their Tim Burton-scale absurdities, their sheer freakiness – end up being plays for people who didn’t know they could enjoy a play. Written, directed and composed by the company’s artistic director, Jonathan Christensen. Vancouver Playhouse, to March 10 ( vancouverplayhouse.com ).
The evergreen talent that grows at the Old Trout Puppet Workshop has produced some of the greatest, darkest, most sophisticated works of puppet theatre you’re likely to encounter (emphatically, this is not your toddler’s puppet show). In its latest effort Trout delivers a kind of puppet documentary to tell the history of happiness, from our lusty Neanderthal beginnings to our current, squelched and Twitter-ing reality. The Cultch, to March 10 ( thecultch.com ).
Playwright Lynn Nottage is officially a genius – she won the $500,000 MacArthur “genius” prize in 2007. Find out why by taking in her most popular work, a love story about a black woman in 1905 New York who makes her way by becoming an accomplished seamstress even as she falls desperately in love with a pen pal she’s never met. Starring Marci T. House as Esther (the seamstress), plus Anna Cummer and Jonathon Young. Granville Island Stage, to March 10 ( artsclub.com ).