Coming to the doors of the play, I was welcomed by enthusiastic volunteers eager to dole out tickets to the sold out show, A Coveted Wife of East Vancouver. The stage was set with curtained and painted backdrops accompanied with uplifting music — including hits ranging from the classic Grease musical to the mellow “Orinoco Flow” by Enya to set the mood.
The picnic pavilion of Granville Island is amidst wetlands sporting bulrushes and willow trees. Aside from the glare of the setting sun, the outdoor location of the play could not be beat. Using actual East Vancouver cafés, Café Deux Soleils and Joe's Café, as the show’s backdrop grounded the performance in the local area.
Telling the tale of two best friends, played by Megan Phillips (Sam) and Hayley Sullivan (Kali), this performance was a fun take on their experiences in the dating world over the past five years, leaving behind the message that despite everything, their friendship endured both in real life and on the stage.
The musical numbers were quirky and creative, leaving the audience giggling. The 12 days of Christmas spin-off regarding their dating app pairings was a fan-favourite.
I enjoyed the dynamic nature of Mostafa Shaker as he played several different characters with simple outfit changes. First was Mansplain, a macho talk-a-lot who wouldn’t let his date get a word in. Next up, River, the spiritual soul who gave Sam a “strength flower” upon going their separate ways. Following that, Adonis Blade, the pimp. And finally, the murderer. All were distinctly different while holding the underlying theme of being an all around bad date!
Swiping left was an inherent move of the play. Watching the two girls navigating Sam’s love life was entertaining as they explored different apps and acquaintances — a clever take on modern dating. Her quest for love was left unresolved, though her friendship with Kali only strengthened as she helped her friend battle alcoholism in tandem with her rom-com-esque dating journey. I really enjoyed the dynamic between the two actors: leaving each other enough space for individual monologues and then coming together for joint musical numbers and conversation.
A scene that was really well done was the kidnapping incident, where Kali kidnapped Sam as an intervention for dating the murderer. Though Sam recognized her date as a murderer that she studied in high school, she felt she was already too involved to refuse. Kali’s interpretation of driving a car was spot on while Sam struggled inside with a blindfold.
Overall, it was a good play. The actors stayed in character despite wind blowing the backdrop up and an awkward moment of fake eyelashes being exposed. The music was engaging, well sung and lively, with original music and lyrics highlighting an authentic feel to the play. I was a little disappointed to learn that Megan was not the real songwriter, as was boasted throughout the performance. Marn Norwich was behind the lyrics, and Itamar Erez arranged and performed the music. Both did an excellent job! And the audience was a respectful crowd, happy to give the crew a laugh.
The production left some questions for the audience, like ‘what are the characters doing now?’ I suppose that could be answered with ‘putting on a play at the Fringe Festival,’ though one can’t help but wonder if Sam ever did find love. Even when the performance came to an end there were elements of the show that kept the story rolling into reality.