A band of prim, middle-aged English women, determined to raise money for cancer research, elect to pose nude for their fundraising calendar. Can extreme need bring on extreme personal transformation? Sweet and comic, this work is based on the 2003 Helen Mirren film (which, itself, was based on true events). Directed by the excellent Rachel Ditor. Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, to Feb. 26 ( artsclub.com ).
Last month, Leonard Cohen's new album, Old Ideas, delivered the first original recordings he's made since 2004. On it, the track Going Home seems a portrait of a great artist confronting his own, overwhelming persona. Apt, then, that Tracey Power has chosen this moment to release her study of Cohen's songbook. In Chelsea Hotel a haunted writer checks into the New York landmark and wades through love-scorched memories – all to the tune, naturally, of Cohen's music. (From Cohen's Going Home: "He wants to write a love song … a manual for living with defeat.") The dearly romantic – and barely discovered – singer-songwriter Adrian Glynn has the role of The Writer. Firehall Arts Centre, to March 3 ( firehallartscentre.ca ).
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 moments in the literary canon and expressing them as a dream someone had whilst taking acid. (The effect is 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 they don't like theatre: Catalyst's productions – with all their steampunk gear, their Dr. Seuss-scale absurdities, their sheer freakiness – end up being plays for people who don't know they can enjoy a play. Written, directed and composed by the company's artistic director, Jonathan Christenson. Vancouver Playhouse, Feb. 18 to March 10 ( vancouverplayhouse.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. Starring Marci T. House as Esther (the seamstress), plus Anna Cummer and Jonathon Young. Granville Island Stage, to March 10 ( artsclub.com ).
The Silicone Diaries
Transsexual performance artist Nina Arsenault has undergone 60 cosmetic surgeries in order to transform her body into its current "bombshell" form. In this, her one-woman show, she shares a frank telling of her personal history, which unfolds into a larger meditation on the nature of beauty and our collective prejudice against those with a "superficial" interest in looks. Historic Theatre at The Cultch, to Feb. 25 ( thecultch.com ).