A Vancouver theatre performance group is bringing three one-act plays to Merritt on Saturday night.
The six-actor company Theatre in the Raw will deliver the three plays on a two-hour bill, with music by Blues for the Road, a guitar-and-vocals duo. The troupe’s artistic director, Jay Hamburger, said the three plays have some challenging themes, and he is curious to see how they’ll be received on their four-stop tour.
“We held a run through today of one of the shows and I was almost in tears,” Hamburger said. “Some of this stuff really hits. That’s what we’re looking for; we’re not looking for huge commercial success, we’re looking for more of the content. I think that’s in the DNA of this particular troupe.”
One of those plays is Maybe Miles, which tells the story of an encounter between a university professor and a former student in an unusual context.
“This young girl, who’s working in a lap dance place, has a customer and after a few minutes of doing a dance for him, she recognizes that it’s her former professor,” Hamburger said. “She’s lost her stipend for college and she’s going for her master’s degree, so she wants to continue with her education and this is a way of earning.”
While there are elements of humour in all of the pieces, Hamburger said, the show The Suspect is reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984 and touches on themes of the Occupy movement.
“There’s a little bit of a chill there. This is a story in which somebody says an off-the-cuff remark, and all of a sudden, the agent’s in the room and there’s an interrogation and so on and so forth, without giving it away,” he said. “Rather than doing some bouncy, sexy musical, we’re bringing a show in that’s timely and it’s about something that’s going on now.”
The other play, Talk Medicine, is a monologue of life experiences told by a taxidermist. The play was written by Calgarian Sheryl Melnyk and has a tough theme, Hamburger said.
“She [the playwright] is talking about men trying to come to grips with their fathers and the relationships between fathers and sons – living up to standards and how that plays out in their relationships with women,” he said. “It’s about how we can fall into patterns and how damaging that can be.”
Hamburger said the company gets some of its performance material from its one-act play-writing contest, and that all three of the plays are original. The company started up in a cafe in 1994, and since then, has evolved from experimental shows to its current mandate, which is focused on thought-provoking content over commercial success. The Merritt Live Theatre Society worked with the troupe to set up the Merritt stop on the four-town tour, which also hits Cawston, Princeton and Spences Bridge, and ends with four back-to-back performances in Vancouver. It’s the tenth live theatre tour the troupe has done.
“I’m just fascinated to see the response of bringing these shows into Merritt. It’s been a labour of love, but we’re willing to take the chance. If we get people thinking, we’ve done most of our job,” Hamburger said with a laugh.
Theatre in the Raw will hit the stage at the Culture Club Saturday night. Tickets are available at Country Bug Books and Gifts and at the Culture Club.