Urban Tales Returns to Christmas Present

Centaur Theatre. Photo Rachel Levine. Centaur Theatre. Photo Rachel Levine.

Urban Tales is a great Centaur tradition. If you are unaware, it is a storytelling based show that runs every year around Christmas and is a complete party. This year, the company is working with Théâtre Urbi and Orbi and the results are spectacular. The goal of this yearly project is to create and present Christmas stories that are fit for adult consumption, so trust me, leave the kids at home. To further drive this point home, the company has transformed the space, creating cabaret-style seating, so get there early if you want a table. And yes, there is a bar in the theatre again this year, to help you get in the mood. And a metal band. Because that makes all the sense in the world.

This year’s underlying theme is the seven deadly sins, material that is rather rich for mining. “Parking Lot Dude” by Yvan Bienvenu and told by Jimmy Blais, really sets the scene, painting a perfect picture of what it looks like to spend Christmas alone in a box… with boxes full of surprises. “The Sum of My Parts” by Joanne Sarazen is a filthy and sad tale of a woman discarded, but is told by Joanna Noyes in a such a lovely hopeful way that you find yourself laugh-cringing throughout. “The Better You” by Justin Laramé is excellent, a tale told by a man consumed with envy, and Pier Kohl’s performance is rather outstanding, demonstrating the rare fury of a life wasted by the realization that pettiness is all that you have left. “Meat in Motion” by Greg MacArthur is hilarious but perplexing at times, and honestly, I would skip over some of the more pedantic Montreal references, but Danny Brochu as a food truck nose-to-tail squirrel ball chef is played with such firm conviction and utter charm that you cannot help but ignore some of the weaknesses of the script.

Jimmy Blais. Photo from Centaur Theatre

Jimmy Blais. Photo from Centaur Theatre

After intermission, we are treated to a fantastic performance by Danette Mackay as a beleaguered single mom in “Possible Gods” by Simon Sachs, a story of coming clean to her somewhat disgusting and absolutely irresponsible son, one of the more realistic of the pieces in the series, mimicking as it were some of those awful conversations that come up around the holidays. In “A Rusty Nail” by Harry Standjofski, a thinly veiled screed against the boomer monopoly on meaningful employment, Paul Van Dyck’s rage is palpable and amazing to watch. Lastly, “Better to Reign” by L.M. Leonard really has it all though. Linda Smith, starting out as a person you don’t really like, a WASP-y vaguely racist grandma, ends up exposing the dirty underbelly of her suffering and will bring you to tears. At least, I was brought to tears. Then again, at the theatre, I am often in tears. But I am sure that I wasn’t the only one, as this is a powerful piece and the perfect closer to a series that knocked it out of the park this year.

Linda Smith. Photo Centaur Theatre.

Linda Smith. Photo Centaur Theatre.

A last note on that metal band that I mentionned before. Yup, there is a metal band playing at the Centaur. Now, I am not going to lie, it feels a bit shoehorned to have them there, and while I get the tie-in to the theme, I wasn’t completely sold on their inclusion. However, as far as metal bands go, this one is at least very good and performs appropriately theatrically, flailing hair and all. Considering the theatre‘s accoustics, do yourself a favor, stop into the pharmacy before the show and get some earplugs. Do yourself the favor and go see the show, it’s great this year.

Urban Tales is playing at the Centaur Theatre, 453 St. François-Xavier, December 11 through 13th, 2014, ThursdayFriday and Saturday at 8PM, as well as a matinee on Saturday at 4PM. Tickets: Students – $16, Senior, Under 30 and Centaur Subscribers – $18, Adult – $22

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