Tear The Curtain

Okay, so for our anniversary, Gillian and I saw a new play called Tear the Curtain.  It’s set in the 1930s, in which Vancouver is under the competing entertainment interests of live theater and movies (with talkies on the way).  It’s about a theater critic who ends up involved in a surreal mystery.  It incorporates all the archetypes of the Film Noir genre, the critic is like the hardboiled detective or investigative reporter.  He’s got his Girl Friday by his side.   There’s a femme fatale, the mob, even revolutionaries involved.

I was floored by this production.

I actually felt bad because this is a story that, by its very nature, will not be seen by many people.  The Stanley holds 650 people at the max, which means during its five week run even if it sold out every night (which it won’t but should) less than 30,000 people will see this show.  And most of them will live in Vancouver.

In some ways this is neat.  It means that a small chunk of Vancouver has shared in something I think is really special.  But no one in Toronto will know.  Wyatt will never see it – and he really should.  It will never get picked up and turned into a film (in part because that would ruin the point of the play).

Allow me to explain.

Tear the Curtain is not your traditional play.  Not in terms of story and not in terms of stage production.  It combines both film and live action.  The film is often projected onto a silver screen, and sometimes onto the set (which is flat and white enough to act as a screen).

But it doesn’t stop there. They use the projection to overlap characters into rooms on the set when they aren’t there, or to provides signs when there isn’t one.

Sometimes they show you what is going on off the set which you can’t see, and sometimes it overlaps with what it happening on stage, showing it from a different angle.

Sometimes they use a “scrim” (think of it as a translucent movie screen which you can see through under some lighting conditions and can’t under others) in order to have movie and live action overlap.

And then the story… the story itself is pretty damn good.  It starts off more or less traditional in terms of storytelling (despite the interweaving of film and play) but eventually works in elements of David Lynch (in terms of being trippy, reality overlaping with psychological madness).  Unlike David Lynch, however, this provides a satisfying narrative.  Sorry, DL fans, but stuff like Lost Highway, while enjoyable to watch, ultimately leave me frustrated.

I won’t give anything away, because I’m hoping those in or close to Vancouver make the effort to see this.  Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

But I am.

I’m disappointed because once this is gone I won’t be able to see it ever again.  If this was a movie, I’d buy the DVD, but you can’t make something like this into a DVD.  You can’t put the show on in another city, either (or at least, it’s highly unlikely).

Once it’s all said and done, all I’ll be left with is whatever memories I can hang onto about it.

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