Shangri-La a sharp, funny look at 1960s

The Uno Festival of solo performance continues until Saturday at Intrepid Theatre Club and the Metro Studio. For full schedule, see


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Where: Intrepid Theatre Club

When: Continues tonight, Friday

Rating: four stars out of five

I confess my heart didn’t exactly beat with joy at the start of Shangri-La. Judy Wensel, sporting pedal-pushers and curlers, bopped out onstage and did some ultra cute dancing. A retro record player and a prominently displayed Righteous Brothers album indicated that — yes — this was to be yet another 1960s romp.

Wensel stars in this self-penned show as pert and plucky Jeanne, a pretty much adorable 14-year-old living in the Prairie town of Millard in 1963. The good news is that Shangri-La isn’t yet another nostalgic stroll down American Graffiti Boulevard. In this well-written, well-directed piece, Wensel takes an entertaining, sharply observed look at a girl coming of age in an imperfect world.

At first, it appears Wensel’s biggest problem is that her date cancelled hours before the big dance.

Yet little by little, hard truths shadowing her life are revealed. Dad’s a boozer, big sister had to leave home in shameful circumstances. Shangri-La also touches on adultery, syphilis and hypocritical small-town attitudes.

Young Jeanne might be adorable, but happily, Wensel imbues her character with grit and bona fide substance.

The teen’s habit of downing bottles of beer — something she calls “alcohol resistance training” — is troubling (will little Jeanne follow dad’s footsteps?). However, there’s a core of toughness and humanity to her that bodes well. When Jeanne twirls and declares: “Wooo, you’re all a bunch of a--holes!” we root for her.

This might be well-trodden ground; nonetheless, Shangri-La is worth seeking out.

— Adrian Chamberlain


O.C. Dean

Where: Metro Theatre

When: Final show May 28

Rating: four stars out of five

Daniel Maslany has created a compelling and disturbing one-man show about Dean, a young man whose life is crippled by obsessive compulsive disorder.

Costumed in a white contamination suit, Dean details a Kafka-esque existence that gets stranger as the tale continues. His world is defined by counting “lucky buttons,” avoiding bacteria-infested doorknobs and fretting over people who fail to wash after using bathrooms. As Dean leads us further and further down his lonely rabbit hole, things get darker.

Admittedly, his drama’s final, climactic scenes are a touch over the top — yet for the most part, the show offers a documentary-style authenticity that pulls the viewer in.

A skilled, likable performer, Maslany cleverly leavens his story with wry humour. Overall, an impressive performance from a talented theatre artist. — AC

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