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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Theatre review: The Chair Series strips storytelling to the essentials

The Chair Series is aptly named. Not only does it make reference to the single chair the actors use as their only prop in this monologue series, it is also a metaphor for the variety of stories presented.

Big comfy arm chairs, straight back formal dining chairs or whimsical chairs found in children’s rooms are all on display in The Chair Series. Metaphorically at least.

In this new monthly anthology series at Vancouver’s Seven Dining Lounge, actors perform monologues written exclusively for them by John McGie. On opening night, seven actors presented twelve.

At the top of the show we are told each story began life as a conversation and a single word. In our recent interview with McGie, we also know each monologue can only be performed by the actor for whom it was written.

While the stories themselves are varied and entertaining, the genesis for each monologue was missing on opening night. The program reveals titles, but it would have also been good to know what single word was the impetus for what we are about to hear. In knowing, we would be insiders into the creation process, providing an additional connection.

Because of the built-in constricts of a show like this, it is difficult to comment on individual monologues, or even actors performing them. Designed as an ever-changing collection, in future months The Chair Series will see different actors perform different monologues.

With over sixty monologues and thirty actors the permutations are almost endless, with a good chance no two shows will ever be the same. In fact, in revealing next month’s line-up we discover none of the actors we saw on opening will return.

In the opening night edition, Angie Nolan, David C Jones, Dolores Drake, Manuel Chavarriaga, Sarah Dawn Pledge, S. Siobhan McCarthy, and Susan Hutchinson told stories ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime, with a nice assortment of comedy and drama. With so many possible choices between actor and monologue, there is little doubt future shows will be as eclectic.

A fun alternative to more traditional theatrical performances, The Chair Series allows the actors to strip everything to its essentials. It is at times raw, but there is something special in watching some of our city’s finest actors performing this type of material, aided only by McGie’s words, their talent and a chair.

And besides, as McGie himself pointed out in our interview, if you don’t connect with a particular story you only have to wait a few minutes for the next to begin.

The Chair Series written and directed by John McGie. On stage monthly at Seven Dining Lounge (53 West Broadway, Vancouver). Next scheduled performance is June 8. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.

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