Thursday, March 8, 2012

Douglas College presents The Very Ecstasy of Love March 16-24

Do you prefer your Shakespeare a little Left Coast, a little Lotusland?

Then you won't want to miss The Very Ecstasy of Love, the latest production (March 16-24) by the departments of Theatre and Stagecraft & Event Technology at Douglas College.

Billed as "a comedy about love (like you've never been hurt before)," The Very Ecstasy of Love tells the story of a pair of crisscrossed lovers that get tangled up in a romantic farce of hidden agendas, cunning meddlers and a vengeful sibling.

The play borrows from a lost play of the Bard's, but at the same time adapts it to make it a story that's uniquely West Coast. Thrasso Petras, director, and Allan Lysell, coordinator of the Theatre Department, took the story of a mismatched bride and groom who find their true loves at their own wedding reception and set it on one of the Gulf Islands, adding to it elements of West Coast living.

It's an experiment in "cultural mobility," says Thrasso, referring to the idea, put forth by Charles Mee, an American playwright, of taking existing plays and adapting them to local cultural norms and traditions.

In 2005, Mee and his collaborator Stephen Greenblatt wrote Cardenio, a play inspired by a play called Double Falsehood, which arose from a lost Shakespeare play called the History of Cardenio (Cardenio being a character from Don Quixote).

Mee and Greenblatt offered translations of Cardenio to different theatre companies around the world - with the condition that they not be performed straight up, but that they be adapted to local cultural mores and conventions.

Using Cardenio as a base, Lysell and Petras created The Very Ecstasy of Love. They not only adapted the story, but have manipulated the characters to conform to the student actors' capabilities and talents.

"It's a different sort of theatre experience," Thrasso says. "We get to say to the students, what do you want to bring to this role? What do you want this character to be? As an actor in a traditional play, you're more of an interpreter. In this play you're more of a creator. There are some given circumstances, but if you don't like them, you can change them."

The Very Ecstasy of Love runs March 16-24 at the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre, Douglas College, 4100-700 Royal Ave., New Westminster. Tickets ($8-$12) are available through the Massey Theatre, 604 521 5050.