by Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille, based on the poems by Alexander Pushkin

Dates and Venue March 17 – April 10, 2016, Tues –Thurs 7:30pm, Fri & Sat 8pm, Wed 1:30pm, and Sat & Sun at 2pm | Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre

Director Amiel Gladstone Set Design Drew Facey Sound Design Bradley Danyluk Costume Designer Jacqueline Firkins Lighting Designer John Webber Musical Director Veda Hille Choreography Tracey Power Stage Manager Allison Spearin Musicians Veda Hille, Barry Mirochnick and Marina Hasselberg

Reviewer John Jane

Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille’s ‘sung-through’ stage musical adaptation for the Arts Club Theatre Company of Alexander Pushkin’s verse novel Eugene Onegin is a madly imaginative take on the iconic cautionary tale of unrequited love and lost opportunity.

Both in terms of creativity and execution, Onegin is an unequivocal success. Performed by a cast of seven of Vancouver’s best local actors – most of the time occupying the stage as a unit – the play cogently floats between théâtre de l'absurde and intense drama.

Set in St. Petersburg, long before its name change Leningrad, the story centres on the passionate relationships of the eponymous protagonist and the sensitive Tatyana, and with Vladimir Lensky and Tatyana’s younger sister Olga. There is also the podtékst that deals with the unstable friendship between Onegin and Lensky.

On first meeting Onegin, Tatyana is smitten and reveals her feelings in a letter rendered in the “The Letter Song,” self-accompanied on the guitar. In response, Onegin is blasé in his rejection of her admission of love, insisting he could not commit to a steadfast relationship. The mood changes abruptly when the selfish anti-hero wantonly trifles with Olga for callous amusement. Onegin’s philandering upsets Lensky who demands satisfaction in a duel. Like Pushkin himself who was fatally wounded in a duel with a French officer who attempted to seduce the poet's wife, Lensky falls to the ground when Onegin’s bullet finds its mark.

There are two Evgeni Onegins: the young “rakish dandy” in act one, the older self-reflective version in act two, both outstandingly played by Alessandro Juliani. Meg Roe, who clearly has a liking of epic productions, delivers a luminous performance as the noble heroine Tatyana.

Josh Epstein as the woefully romantic Vladimir Lensky and Lauren Jackson as the pernicious Olga, show off their penchant for physical comedy, while Andrew Wheeler is solid in support as Prince Gremin. Andrew McNee is delightfully camp as a French party performer – just one of his numerous roles.

Drew Facey’s set has a Shakespeare festival look to it. The square planked stage floor is bare save for piles of books. The books, artfully assembled at the corners are an incidental recognition of the power of the pen and symbolic of Tatyana Larin’s love of reading. Behind a busy, slightly elevated floor where musicians Veda Hille, Barry Mirochnick and Marina Hasselberg are visible to the audience, there are swaths of floor-to-ceiling red curtains.

Onegin is a visually arresting production, Gladstone and Hille’s score could stand alone, and despite the emphasis on satire, there is enough emotional impact to compensate the wistful.

© 2016 John Jane