Unique musical comedy with uncommon depth comes to the North Shore
The theme of want isn’t new to the stage, but never before has a production dealt so literally with the subject of the things people desire than Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata.
For those unfamiliar with Craigslist, it’s a free online classified ad site; and for those unfamiliar with a cantata, it’s basically a song. Knowing that much, it’s little surprise that Do You Want What I Have Got? is little more than want ads put to music. But, as if by some musical alchemy, this unique comedy’s uncommon depth is a sum much greater than its parts.
“It’s even something that ran deeper than I expected,” says Veda Hille, who co-wrote the play with Bill Richardson for Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre Company. “One of the things that’s sort of surprised me in the audience response in the end is that people are actually moved and they identify with these people. Which is what we had hoped for; we didn’t want to mock.”
Which is no easy task considering some of the for-sale ad items Hille and her partner deemed ripe for musical scrutiny: irregular hats for cats, mounted lobsters and autographed copies of the Bible, to name a few.
Curating such curiosa for the show is a never-ending process.
What began in 2009 as part of a project to create a “20-minute musical” has since evolved into a 90-minute feature that touches down on the North Shore this week for the first time ever.
With no real plot or story arc per se, the show is nothing if not unconventional. But, according to director Amiel Gladstone, it’s the portrayal of the anonymous but real characters that proves most compelling about the Craigslist cantata.
“It’s not like we follow a specific boy and girl and then them falling in love and out of love. It isn’t meant to be like that,” Gladstone told The Outlook in a phone interview Monday. “There are some characters that occur throughout and there is sort of an emotional arc about peoples’ search for connection… and putting their ads out there as a method to try and find other humans.”
And finding other humans — a whole community of them — is what had the most impact on Hille in researching the show, the Vancouver singer-songwriter said. That the humanity of anonymous and often crazy-seeming ad posters shines through is the show’s triumph.
“I was just so genuinely moved by so many things on Craigslist,” Hille said. “At first sometimes it seems like a sort of shallow emotional response where you think ‘Ha ha, isn’t that funny?’ but I find the deeper you get into the community, the more you see it’s real people and you get a sense of who they are.”
And while in the three years since the show was born, it’s become commonplace for fake ads to appear on Craigslist purely for comedic effect, Hille said for an ad to make the show, it still has to have that intangible human-ness.
“We look for things that feel real,” she said. “You try to not just go for the funny as well. You look for the one where someone is really telling you something that has happened. There’s a quality of truthfulness as well as the cleverness.”
Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata shows Oct. 1 at the North Shore Credit Union Centre for the Performing Arts at Capilano University and then Oct. 4, 5 and 6 at West Vancouver’s Kay Meek Centre.