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101

Instant Theatre – The Actor’s Nightmare

Comedy, Events, Improv, Reviews

April 21, 2017

At the Havana Restaurant on Commercial Drive there lies a small black box style theatre space hidden at the back. This is where you will find players from Instant Theatre strutting their stuff. On the third Saturday of every month is when Instant improvisers and five guest actors bring you The Actor’s Nightmare – Scripted Theatre and Improv Collide!

As the title suggests, an actor’s nightmare is not knowing their lines, or worst, not knowing what play they are even in. This is exactly what happens in Actor’s Nightmare. Each improviser is paired up with a guest actor who will act out their memorized scripted lines. The improviser then must react to the scripted lines and make a cohesive-ish act. The result is a series of unexpectedly hilarious one act plays.

 

Allie Entwistle doing audience warm ups

 

The night began with host Allie Entwistle introducing the show with an explanation of what to expect and some fairly standard improv audience warm ups. The first actor-improviser pair, Abbey St. Brendan and Janet Davidson were then invited onto the stage. Janet started with asking for audience suggestion of an object: a whisk. The scene began with Janet whisking a bowl of something (a cake!) and Abbey’s Mary Aldin burst in exclaiming something about a murder in the house. The ensuing entertaining chaos of trying to find out who was murdered, who was the murderer, and how Janet’s character became an inadvertent accomplice had the audience in endless laughter. After the act was over, Abbey revealed that her scripted part was from Agatha Christie’s Toward Zero.

 

Abbey and Janet discussing a murder and cake!

 

 

Next was an original piece by Bennett Taylor and improviser Trang Nguyen. Trang’s 12 year old farm girl entered the scene with bucket of milk from their old cow, Betsy, and presented it to her father (Bennett) while contemplated whether the boy from next farm over would take her to the dance. We come to learn that Father worked as a cashier at a restaurant, Bob’s Big Ol’ Steaks. Unfortunately, Betsy succumbed to some sort of ailment involving a ball which resulted in a field full of cow blood.

 

Bennet and Trang investigating Betsy’s illness

 

Third set of the evening was a dramatic observation of bird behaviour by Vuk Prodanovic and Maddy Rafter as Captain and Miss Pennywise. This short half-improvised act started on a submarine, with the Captain’s overreaction to Pa, his seagull friend’s antics, but later was revealed that Captain and Miss Pennywise were criminals on the run. Criminals with a heart, having a heart to heart. There was also a giant heart in the sky, or possibly crows…? Vuk’s scripted part was from Urinetown: The Musical.

 

The second to last pair was Ella Berger as Niki (Curtains) and Mark Sears. The scene took place during intermission of a high school play, Macbeth: The Musical. Mark’s character, a drama teacher named Frank Gower was texting when Niki, whom Mr. Gower embarrassingly misnamed Amber multiple times, barged onto the scene. Niki was reluctant to replace the lead actress who fell off the stage and injured herself as Lady Macbeth. Revelations of death threats and forbidden romances followed, as Mr. Gower was trying to get someone to carry the injured girl off the front rows.

 

Ella and Mark having a crisis during “intermission”

 

Lastly, Julie Casselman and our erstwhile host herself, Allie Entwistle. Allie was given the audience suggestion of “a rack of watermelons”, and thus, Jacob the Watermelon Merchant was born. As the scene progressed, we learn that Mary Snow (Julie), a kumquat seller, and Jacob were once engaged, but Mary promised herself to Jerome since Jacob ran away a year ago. Apparently Jerome was quite the mansplainer and told Mary all kinds of things, such as all the pretty names of the moon’s mountains and valleys, and that bald men are very potent. Yes, potent. There was also a dog ghost. The act ended with Mary sliding her engagement ring off and making suggestive eyebrow movements at Jacob. Julie’s excerpt is from Salt-Water Moon by David French.

 

Julie and Allie at the watermelon rack

 

All in all, The Actor’s Nightmare – Scripted Theatre and Improv Collide! was very entertaining and kept the audience in stitches, which is par of course for Instant Theatre improv shows. The scenes held up surprisingly well though it is not without a dash of chaos, but what’s improv without a healthy dose of entropy. I would highly recommend The Actor’s Nightmare if you are in the mood for some comedy on Saturday night.

The next showing of The Actor’s Nightmare – Scripted Theatre and Improv Collide! will be on May 20th at 10:30 PM, tickets available here.

 


Eva Mak is a local producer, artist and lady about town. You can tweet at her @originalevamak 

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180

God of Comics: Wildstorm #3

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 19, 2017

Wild Storm #3 (DC Comics)

What, no Valiant this week? Tune in next Wednesday for Valiant. They’ve got something special brewing. This week we’re ending the whole God of Comics thing with the writing deity that mortal souls call Warren Ellis as DC Comics allows him to completely rework the whole of the Wildstorm Universe.

Born in the nineties, the Wildstorm imprint was the brainchild of Jim Lee and was the best of what nineties comics offered while also playing into every cliche the nineties propagated: pouches everywhere, overlarge guns and weaponry, sprawling mythologies and stories that played out over years… and as the Wildstorm Universe wound down it became self-aware enough for self-mockery and introspection, resulting in some of the best comics ever written (Sleeper, I’m looking directly at you).

Wildstorm was a big part of what informed the nu52, as the whole of their mythology merged with DC Comics and was a big part of why the nu52 didn’t work. DC Comics are typically about justice tempered by understanding, protection informed by tragedy, and truth becoming mercy. There’s no place for such things in the dark conspiracies of Wildstorm, but no means for them to exist, either. The likes of Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman make the Wildstorm universe an impossibility just by existing.

And so much of Wildstorm was left by the wayside during DC Rebirth. This was a good thing. It was a good decision. But this does not mean that the Wildstorm Universe has no place or value in the modern world, and there is no one living today that can see that worth or value expanded and explained like Warren Ellis can.

He’s building a modern world where centuries of shadow wars have bubbled just below the surface and are only now coming to light, slowly introducing new takes on familiar faces that feel true to what was while adding new depth. It’s a remarkable achievement from a writer who is known for remarkable achievements, ranging from Nextwave to Transmetropolitan to Injection, and he brings all his brilliance and wit and everything he is to a mythology that is worthy of him.

The artwork provided by Jon-Davis Hunt perfectly captures every leaking bit of emotion from what could be a high-concept intellectual pursuit, infecting each character with visual quirks and a style that harkens to what was and informs what is.

If you liked the old Wildstorm at all, you need to read this. If you like superheroes at all but wish they were, well, more (and haven’t discovered / don’t have time for the wealth of Valiant) you need to read this. If you appreciate good writing and excellent art you need to read this.

Really, you just need to read this. Do so.

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189

God of Comics: Shaolin Cowboy – Who’ll Stop the Reign? #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 19, 2017

Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign? #1 (Dark Horse Comics)

Many many moons ago, I walked into Big Pete’s Comics and Collectibles and found a Smiling Big Pete. Pete is big, usually, the sort of tall that makes you think that maybe he’s smuggling back mushrooms from a certain kingdom or maybe he did, in fact, defeat the King of the Koopas. And he often does smile. He is an affable fellow.

The smile on this day, though, was different. It was a special smile. A smile rooted in the discovery of something no one was ever supposed to know about. A smile that spoke of those maddening gifts that sometimes one is lucky enough to find, and – if one is paying attention – lucky enough to acknowledge.

Such treasures need to be shared.

Have you ever heard,” Pete asked, speaking in the tone of one who has discovered a great truth, “of Shaolin Cowboy?”

The comic he placed in my hands was madness – starting with a wordless splash page fight scene that lasted an entire issue, where an unassuming old man in frumpy clothes fought an army armed with a stick that had two chainsaws attached to it. There was pathos here, somehow, an implied ethos and uncertain logos that left one stripped of order and adrift in chaos.

It was gory, ridiculous, and beautiful.

Geof Darrow is the mad prophet that brings us this vision of greatness, this salivating and glorious insanity. In the latest chapter of Samurai Cowboy the frumpy old man battles beachfront property and some of its associated horrors. Those horrors are looking for revenge for things maybe in a comic that has won and lost Eisner awards. Do not look away. Stare into the void. Read the comic. Look in the mirror.

Your smile will shock you, but only then will you Understand.

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158

God of Comics: Plastic #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 19, 2017

Plastic #1 (Image Comics)

With Nailbiter done, we’re in need of a new serial killer comic to keep our urges in check… and Image Comics is happy to give us the thing we crave.

Check this out: a serial killer named Edwyn Stoffgruppen gives up killing for the girl he met online, a lovely little thing named Virginia. When I say thing I’m not using a euphemism: Virginia is a sex doll that Edwyn purchased from somewhere on the internet, and the doll soothes whatever it is that makes him need to kill. The two of them are driving through America, enjoying the backroads and one another, and everything seems to be as okay as they’re going to get.

Or, rather, they seem to be okay until a billionaire kidnaps (steals?) Virginia and holds her (it?) hostage in an effort to get Edwyn to kill in exchange for her (its?) safe return.

Robert Kirkman, writer of the Walking Dead, describes this comic as “The weirdest shit I’ve ever read.”

No foolin.’

There’s something amazing in the idea of a billionaire taking the one thing that keeps a killer in check for his own personal amusement, and thinking that somehow this won’t backfire and make things worse for (a) everyone around him and (b) himself. I know billionaires suffering from affluenza tend to think the things that affect/kill the people around them won’t touch them, but Edwyn is very much a serial killer and he took away the one thing that makes him not a serial killer.

Couldn’t he just poison a water supply of an entire state in the name of profits? That works for most. Or imprison an entire group of people for bullshit reasons and funnel them into a for-profit prison? There’re politicians that will help with that. Taking the stop gap away from a serial killer, however, is probably the worst idea – no one profits from that, man, except maybe eventually anyone not in the 1%.

Worried by me bringing politics into it? Don’t be. Writer Doug Wagner is going to do that – this is the man who did Immigrant and Customs Enforcement and Average Joes over at 12 Gauge Comics, and if you haven’t read those, well, read this. You’ll understand. The weirdness is being brought to line and color by Laura Martin, who you might and should know from her work on Planetary and Daniel Hillyard, who has been with Doug from the beginning and knows his way around the printed page.

No lie, April 19th is my birthday and I’m considering this my present from Image Comics.

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3597

God of Comics: Monstress #11

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 19, 2017

Monstress #11 (Image Comics)

It amazes me how many people have gotten into comics to read this title. It’s high-concept, story and art wise, the sort of thing that you wouldn’t expect people to go for, but the perfect mingling of every aspect of this book makes it more than the sum of its parts.

Let me explain.

Marjorie Liu is one of those talented writers that flies underneath far too many people’s radar. She’s got a subtle knack for world building and characterization that brushes every page; this is a writer who loves language and you get a sense of that in every sentence. She wrote the best version of Laura McKinney (in NYX and X-23), a character you might know as the girl Wolverine from Logan.

She also wrote some of the most heartfelt X-Men comics Marvel has ever published, concentrating on individual characters and finding the heart in each. Those of us that have read her novels (the Dirk and Steele and Hunter Kiss stories) know exactly how good she is at making you care about her characters and the worlds that they live in, and Monstress is one of her most powerful works in that regard.

Set in a fantastic matriarchal society with heavy Asian influence, Monstress tells the tale of semi-magical creatures that can sometimes pass as human and the humans that use them to fuel their magic. This usage sometimes kills and often hurts those being used, and as a result, the magical ones are dehumanized, degraded, broken and discarded – and so our protagonist is one of their number investigating the death of her mother at the hands of wizards.

It’s a tale of faith, of friendship, a fable that digs deep into the guts of institutional racism and the evils of both war and slavery. It’s incredible meaty stuff and every panel is lovingly rendered by artist Sana Takeda. Seriously, every panel in this comic is a portrait – it’s one of the most beautiful comics on the shelves today, and it’d be worth picking up just for the artwork even if the story wasn’t so good.

But by the powers of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda combined, well, Image Comics is publishing something magical. Whatever else you might grab this week, do not miss this.

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173

God of Comics: The Forever War #3

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 19, 2017

Forever War #3 (Titan Books)

The Forever War is one of those seminal science fiction books that everyone should read and I’m kinda glad it’s being turned into a comic – the more places this story is told, the better.

Written back in 1974, the story is about a marine sent into deep space to fight a war he doesn’t really understand against aliens he might never see. Most of the first few chapters deal with military culture and the idea of taking planets that are utterly inhospitable to human life. When our hero finally sees action things go wrong and when he’s served his term the military offers to extend his contract, but all he wants to do is go home.

The problem is a simple one: you can never go home again. Anyone who’s traveled knows that things change in your absence and that the place you left is never the place that you return to. This is further complicated by dwindling resources and evolving societal trends, so the world our hero comes back to is more alien to him than the aliens he was fighting. He eventually re-enlists, because while war is hell it is, at least, familiar.

It’s all the more interesting in that author Joe Haldeman is a Vietnam veteran, one of those war heroes that conservatives like in concept but rarely in practice. The story hits that line, with many classic space opera tropes turned on their heads: the war is a meaningless one, the inciting moment an accident that those with more greed than sense used to line their own pockets.

The book is one of those quietly influential stories, a Nebula-award winning tale that really should be taught in schools. As recently as March 2017, the book was referenced in the New York Times by writer Brian Castner, who said “The longest conflict in American history – from Afghanistan to Iraq, to high-value target missions throughout Africa and the Middle East – has been nicknamed the Forever War. Our country has created a self-selected and battle-hardened cohort of frequent fliers, one that is almost entirely separate from mainstream civilian culture, because service in the Forever War, as many of us call it, isn’t so much about going as returning.”

It should be noted that this comic has seen light before: Joe Haldeman did script out a comic that was illustrated by Marvano and published by NBM Publishing almost thirty years ago, but this is the first time we’ve gotten fresh prints of the tale in English since that time (there was a collected edition back in 2002, but it was only in French).

For those of us that are interested in the world we live in and the truth of what combat looks like and the difficulties of coming home, this is the cautionary tale we need. This story is an important one, a stark and honest report written by a veteran of a horrific war fought for reasons no one really understands except those that profited from it – the inciting incident of the greed-inspired wars that America is fighting today and reaping the consequences of.

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225

God of Comics: Rose #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 12, 2017

Rose #1 (Image Comics)

We’re covering a lot of fantasy this week. It’s unavoidable when you have this many good fantasy titles; not mentioning the other comics that we’ve discussed this week would have been criminal. So why are we discussing another one? What possible thing could this comic do to set itself apart from the others?

The art is a good place to start. We’re typically more interested in the writing – and we will come back to that- but Ig Guara is handling the art on this title. You might remember Ig from his work on the Avengers and Wonder Woman, given that he’s become something of a go-to at Marvel and DC and Image. Ig’s penchant for lighting and space are both going to play well to this story, which, well.

Meredith Finch was responsible for Little Mermaid over at Zenescope and Wonder Woman over at DC Comics, and jumping between those characters and companies requires more than a little finesse. When someone capable of that sort of breadth decides to tackle classic fantasy you know something good is coming.

And something good is coming. The story here is about a female knight looking to become the guardian her broken world needs so badly. She’s got a giant panther-thing that is more properly called a Khat-Thorne-to, but Rose just calls her Thorne because she has a sense of humor about these things.

Her world was broken by a sorcerer named Drucilla who has a whole whack of demons at her beck and call and is more than willing to use them to destroy her enemies, and Rose certainly counts as such. Thing is, there’s a scared little girl that has drawn Drucilla’s ire and the attention of her horde and you know things are going to go from bad to worse.

So, we’ve got a nimble writer with a penchant for complex female characters paired with an artist you does fantastic imagery working together on a book about a lost knight and her giant panther fighting an evil sorceress to try and repair a broken world. Read that last sentence again and tell me that doesn’t sound cool.

I can’t wait to get my mitts on this – it sounds like the perfect analogue to Rat Queens, a darker take meant to compliment the lighter tone while still keeping the mature focus and surprising capacity for depth. This has high sleeper hit potential, so be sure to get in now.

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227

God of Comics: Rat Queens #2

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 12, 2017

Rat Queens #2 (Image Comics)

There is a giant dragon goose. I did not see that coming.

We typically try to avoid drawing attention to the same comic one month after another, but this is Rat Queens and you will bow down to the Queens. Kurtis J Wiebe found a new illustrator in Owen Gieni and the two of them look to be having a blast with the all-female adventurer troupe that works out of the small town of Palisade.

If you’ve ever played a sit down role-playing game, you will immediately see the appeal of this comic. If you haven’t, this is the sort of thing that will make you want to play one. It’s so good that the Critical Role crew once cosplayed as the Queens for Halloween, so good that you must read it right now.

Rat Queens is also one of the most LGBT+ friendly comics you could hope to find, with positive portrayals of transgendered, gay, and interracial couples throughout. There’s stories of acceptance, the family hardship that comes with bucking tradition, and so many other complex themes woven into a deceptively simple narrative that it is, simply, mind-blowing.

Once you see how good this comic is it is impossible not to see it.

Also, there is a giant dragon goose monster.

The giant dragon goose monster is a recent addition; the Queens were hired to do a job and are easing their way back into things. Their leader, a dwarf named Violet who shave her beard and left her clan because she couldn’t stomach the conservative traditions of her people any longer, took the job and then ran into a problem: her younger brother.

Dude was sent to bring her back home and got his ass stomped by Violet. This was not a good moment for him, so he’s shaved his beard and recruited people that mirror the Queens in an effort to annoy and outdo Violet. He’s even named his adventurer group the Cat Kings because he’s kind of a dick. He thought he was doing pretty okay until a giant goose dragon attacked and broke his party.

Violet saved his dumb ass, but their rogue got ate in the process and is currently stuck facing off with a merchant in the literal belly of a beast. Meanwhile, Violet is about to lead her Queens into the most violent fight they’ve ever had, because normal geese are vicious monsters and dragon geese have to be worse.

If that isn’t enough, Patrick Rothfuss – the guy what writes the Kingkiller Chronicles – is doing a backup story this month. Why? Because he loves the Queens. You should, too.

Look, it’s Rat Queens. It’s awesome. Buy it, read it, love it.

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178

God of Comics: Immortal Brothers: The Tale of the Green Knight #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 12, 2017

Immortal Brothers: The Tale of the Green Knight #1 (Valiant Entertainment)

When Valiant did their re-launch several years ago, they started with X-O Manowar, Bloodshot, Harbinger, Shadowman, and Archer & Armstrong. Each of those titles offered something unique while still feeling like part of a cohesive universe (well, not Shadowman, but Ninjak is fixing that retroactively). It’s the last one, Archer & Armstrong, that currently concerns us.

Archer & Armstrong was about a religious assassin and the man he thought was the devil, a ten-thousand-year-old immortal drunkard who isn’t bad or even drawn that way; he’s just kind of a well-meaning alcoholic. The two went on adventures and over the course of things learned the secret of the drunkard’s immortality and met his two brothers, also immortals.

See, ten thousand years ago, there were three princes who went to war with another nation. The youngest of them, the best warrior, died in that conflict. The eldest and most intelligent of them came up with a way to resurrect him, but the middle brother – our drunkard – had some questions about consequences that the eldest ignored.

The result of the eldest’s experiment did bring their brother back to life and made the three of them immortal, but it also murdered their entire civilization and affected them in different ways. The Eldest, Ivar, has become unmoored in time and had to figure out how to move through whens the same way he does wheres. The youngest, Gilad, became tied to the life force of the planet and acts as a champion for that same life force. The middle brother, Aram, got strong and tough and decided to get very drunk and eventually changed his name to Armstrong.

Previous series have touched on things the brothers have done throughout history, but writer Fred van Lente has decided to explore things in greater detail and look at how history and myth has been shaped by one or more of the three immortals as they weave their way through time.

We’re starting with Arthurian myth, as Gilad is serving as a knight of the Round Table when the Green Knight wanders by and lays out a challenge – anyone is free to strike him provided he can inflict the same injury on them in one year’s time. Gilad chops off his head but gets no quickening; instead, the Green Knight picks up his head and leaves.

Now, Gilad has to go and make good on his promise… unless he can figure out what the hell is going on. His two brothers hear of this and decide to get involved because family affairs are always a bit of a mess.

Sounds like fun.

Cary Nord from X-O Manowar is handling the art duties on this one, so this book is going to be gorgeous and weird. If you’re looking for a different spin on superheroes or Arthurian stuff or are just looking for something new, give this a read. Valiant rarely disappoints, and this is going to be awesome.

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174

God of Comics: Guardians of the Galaxy #19

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 12, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy #19 (Marvel Comics)

You kinda have to feel bad for the Guardians of the Galaxy; they came to Earth to help a friend and got royally screwed. See, Marvel was busy making Captain Marvel a villain in Civil War II, but the guardians didn’t know that; they just knew her from when she was cool and came to help. Their ship got wrecked, they got stranded and separated on Earth, and things have kind of gone bad for them ever since.

Captain Marvel totally abandoned them because there’s a movie or something being made about her, and she doesn’t really care about her friends anymore unless they still might be able to help her (these ones can’t) or she got them killed (paging Mr. War Machine or Dr. Brice Banner…). Maybe if one or more of them die she could be bothered to care…?

It’s kind of a moot point. The different Guardians – Star-Lord, Drax the Destroyer, Gamorra, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot – have all managed to get off planet on their own, sometimes in spite of themselves. Also, destiny is pulling then back together to fight the being most of them were drawn to fight together in the first place: a certain Mad Titan who goes by the name Thanos.

Not sure if this is going to crossover with the most recent Thanos series, but we may as well cover those bases: Thanos is sick and dying. He recently escaped Earth and has been killing his way across the cosmos looking for answers as to what is killing him, and even let himself to captured by the Shi’ar in an effort to learn more about what is happening to him. The answers the Shi’ar failed to provide ended up with more of them dying and I’m pretty okay with that given how idiotic the Shi’ar have proven to be.

Seriously, their gods got tricked by a Loki that wasn’t trying very hard into picking a fight with Thor, which is going even less well than you might expect. Between that and their habit of poking the preferred host of the Phoenix Force, someone might want to put the Shi’ar on some sort of suicide watch.

Anyways, Thanos.

Gamorra was raised by Thanos and would like to kill him. Drax the Destroyer was literally created to kill Thanos. The other three don’t have personal reasons for killing the Mad Titan buy they do like their friends (something Captain Marvel could learn a thing or two about) and have nothing better to do, so they’re probably in, too.

Thing is, this is Brain Michael Bendis’ last issue. He’s been building up to this for the better part of five years, literally working this title through several event comics and the last big stupid reboot thing. This is his climax. He’s done some incredible things with this title and it’s impossible to think that he wouldn’t close this out with a bang.

Valerio Schiti has been working art on this title for a while and he’s also done some beautiful work here, and one would expect that he’d be looking to blow all our minds as this story wraps up. Given the skill he typically brings to the table, one can only drool at the thought of what he’s about to unveil.

This has quietly been an excellent book; it is impossible to fathom the idea that the end will be anything less than epic.

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