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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Theatre review: Hot House puts Studio 58 students fully in the spotlight

New initiative sees theatre students run all aspects of this program of one-act plays

While a hothouse usually conjures images of a glass structure used to grow plants out-of-season, it can also mean a place in which people are taught to develop skills and knowledge more quickly than usual. On both counts, it is an appropriate title for Studio 58’s new initiative.

An idea which has been growing for a number of years at Langara College’s professional theatre school, Hot House gives Studio 58’s acting and production students an opportunity to complete an entire production from start to finish.

With assistance from a team of mentors, the students have taken on playwriting, acting, designing, stage management, and the technical aspects of eight one-act plays in a showcase that runs the gamut from the ridiculous to the very personal.

Like many shorts programs, some of the stories are more engaging than others. Fortunately, if one isn’t to your taste, it is only a matter of minutes before the next begins.

Pelmet & Sables by Cameron Peal. Directed by Dylan Floyde. Featuring Nolan McConnell-Fidyk Emma Ross.

Opening Hot House is Pelmet & Sables, a series of shorts that are also used in transitions between the other seven plays. A cross between The Rocky Horror Show and the Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner cartoons, two “people” (from the future, aliens, robots?) set out to discover what it means to be human by experiencing death. A sometimes funny interlude between some of the more serious pieces on offer, McConnell-Fidyk and Ross are suitably cartoonish as the title characters. Playwright Peal has fun with words, while director Floyde keeps things moving at a quick pace.

Monster by Gaia Chernushenko. Directed by Julia Munčs. Featuring Lauren Preissl, Erin Palm, Dan Swain, and Nicholas Elia.

Chernushekno explores the often debilitating effect of postpartum depression in a sometimes powerful piece as new mom Claire deals with the expectations of motherhood. As with many of the plays in Hot House it may lack a satisfying conclusion, but the performances from this cast are solid under the Munčs’ direction.

a lil prayer 4 u by Kelsey Kanatan Wavey. Directed by Ella Storey. Featuring David Underhill & Ashley Chartrand.

In Wavey’s reflection on millennial relationships, two friendships are tested as they realize their bond has not stood the test of time in a world where social media has the ability to destroy, and where judgement comes at every turn. Packing a lot into this short one-act, it would have been more satisfying with greater focus.  Despite its scattered approach, Underhill and Chartrand are committed to the material under Storey’s direction.

Les Patisseries Sauvages by Aaron Duke & Gabriel Covarrubias. Directed by Matisse Jacques Quaglia. Featuring Ella Storey, Liam Stewart-Kanigan, Joe Rose, Dan Swain, Gaia Chernushenko, Lauren Preissl, and Moe Golkar.

This comedic drama about entitlement may have you initially thinking about Rosemary’s Baby and Eyes Wide Shut. Rose-coloured glasses are the eyewear of choice for this group of “elite” who ultimately get their comeuppance from the “help”. Subversive, chaotic, and a great deal of fun, it is one of the night’s highlights with its wild premise and willing cast.

Labour Pains by Ashley Chartrand. Directed by Erin Palm. Featuring Angela Chu, Solomon Rise, Irene Almanza, Ivy Charles, Hannah Pearson, Matisse Jacques Quaglia, Gabriel Covarrubias, Aaron Duke, and Cameron Peal.

A second story about giving birth, this time Chartrand takes us into the delivery room where truths are revealed at ten centimetres. As its central character, Chu effectively captures the pain of both childbirth and betrayal, while her partner played by Rise struggled with both his indifference and revelation.

Inhale by Ivy Charles. Directed by Hannah Pearson. Featuring Daniel Bristol, Paige Fraser, Kitra Veronelly-Wassill, and Kelsey Kanatan Wavey.

This touching drama is all about pulling at the heartstrings as two sisters must decide the fate of their injured brother. With its surprising ending and genuine performances from its cast, this one will give you the feels. It is also one of the few where you hoped for more.

Chicken Wings and Jell-O Shots by Jimmy Jinpyo Hong. Directed by Isaac Li. Featuring Dylan Floyde, Jimmy Jinpyo Hong, Angela Chu, and Hannah Pearson.

Including a riff on the deli orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally, playwright Hong mixes unrealistic expectations with food porn in this hit-and-miss comedy about millennial relationships. Maybe it’s a generational thing because some in the audience were eating it up.

Come Back Out by David Underhill. Directed by Joe Rose. Featuring Julia Munčs, Paige Fraser, and Kitra Veronelly-Wassill.

Old wounds are brought to the surface in this story of two sisters who have drifted apart. Featuring original music from Jessica Jones and Payton Hansen it is an ambitious undertaking in such a short time-frame.

Hot House continues at Langara College’s Studio 58 (100 W 49th Ave, Vancouver) until March 31. Split into two programs, the plays are presented in repertory on alternating nights. Visit for tickets and information.

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