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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Theatre review: Annapurna is devastating

The payoff in Sharr White’s Annapurna is so devastating that you may very well find yourself sobbing in the end.

Reunited with her dying husband Ulysses in his dilapidated mobile home in Paonia, Colorado after leaving him some twenty years earlier, Emma is looking to reconnect. Referring to it as the “ass crack of the Rockies”, there is not a little irony as Ulysses makes his first appearance in nothing more than an apron and an oxygen tank that is helping him to stay alive.

In this quick 80 minutes, the two set out on a sometimes horrific, sometimes loving, but always electrifying, dance of recriminations and memories. It all boils to a finale where the darkest secret is revealed, and hopefully with it, some closure.

Annapurna burns with a delicate balance between the lighter and darker side of relationships, helped immensely by the performances of Daryl Shuttleworth and Lucia Frangione, under the direction of Christy Webb.

Shuttleworth as the dying Ulysses provides much of the humour that helps alleviate the tension in the room, ebbing and flowing like his life-giving oxygen. Beneath the humour though, there is a man both scared of what is coming, and what has past.

Accent aside, as Emma, Frangione is equally as layered, moving quickly to counter much of Ulysses sarcasm, while managing to exude a warmth that makes his acceptance of her appearance that much more believable. The tears in her eyes are as real as the turmoil that she feels inside.

Combined, Frangione and Shuttleworth are electrifying, with two of the best performances you’re going to see on stage all year. The two find that sometimes elusive connection between their characters, that spills into the audience in the intimate PAL Theatre.

So realistic is Glenn MacDonald’s set that it was only lacking a fourth dimension, the smell. And even though you know it isn’t the case, when Emma opens the small fridge you’d swear the odour of rotting meat inside wafts through the room. Lighting designer Michael Methot brings an exquisite opening sequence that casts desert shadows inside MacDonald’s cutaway set.

In her program notes, director Christy Webb claims Annapurna as her last directorial undertaking. What a way to go out. You should get your tickets now.

Annapurna by Sharr White. Directed by Christy Webb. A Christy Webb Productions presentation in collaboration with Railtown Cultural Eclective. On stage at the PAL Studio Theatre (581 Cardero St, Vancouver) until October 10. Visit for tickets and information.


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