The Extractionist – Theatre Thursday

On Theatre Thursdays, I discuss topics related to theatre. I also write about local productions that I think #yyc should see. Today I’m talking about a new play that I haven’t been able to stop talking about – The Extractionist.

The Extractionist by Michaela Jeffery - Photo Credit to Tim Nguyen
Image lovingly stolen from Vertigo Theatre. Photography credit to Tim Nguyen.

Calgary has been filled with new theatre this month! I don’t know if it’s because they were inspired by High Performance Rodeo or if it was just a coincidence, but our professional companies have been filled with world premieres this February. And as an artist who pretty much exclusively creates new works these days, I am hyped to see it. That said, it has led to a few little complications for my blog. Either the shows have had short runs (The F Word) or the buzz made its way to me late (Little Red Warrior and His Lawyer), but either way I didn’t have the opportunity to cover them before they closed. But you know what I did love and is still open? Vertigo Theatre’s The Extractionist, written by my very own Michaela Jeffery! 


You got it, friends. Michaela Jeffery is a part of our club. She is a dear friend of mine from university, a fantastic playwright who I feel so lucky to know. Her way with words is truly magical – I sometimes still bust out a monologue that she wrote for Helen of Troy in an adaptation of The Trojan Women we created together during our senior year. She writes sparkling contemporary works that can be equal parts poetic and “real” (if realism is what you want in your dialogue, of course). 

And What About The Extractionist?

To let the official summary speak for itself:

“Asha Ray is the last option for desperate people who have reached the limits of what law enforcement can do for them. With no business card and no mailing address, she’s an expert deprogrammer who specializes in getting people’s family members out of cults. When a vulnerable woman disappears, Asha is asked to investigate the top suspect: a political young man who is a rising member of the powerful and secretive organization called Luminia. With the help of retired detective Rueben Medina, Asha slips into this dangerous world, making new enemies and exposing old secrets – including a few of her own. Can Asha find the answers she needs in time, or will history repeat itself?”

The Extractionist is very much a contemporary mystery, with a dash of film noir sprinkled over it. If you love modern crime tv shows or are into true crime, this show will feel familiar to you. There is a grittiness that I see in so many of my mom’s favourite thriller shows. (It probably goes without saying that she enjoyed the show as well.) 

That said – this play won’t be for everyone. I figured out the “whodunnit” element fairly early on so, for me, it became much more of a “how done it” type mystery… which is equally valid. It’s fun to feel like you’re so clever that you figured it out and then wait for someone to tell you how what you figured out actually played out. Traditionalists may not be into a different type of mystery, though.

I’m Sold On the Script. What Else Will I Like?

Perhaps you’ll like blog favourite, Mike Tan, playing retired cop Reuben Medina (a very different role than Bouc)? 

Perhaps you’ll be as obsessed as I am over the electric female cast – Tara Beagan (who last played Marmee in Little Women – a very different role!), Vanessa Leticia Jetté (also last in Little Women as Meg… again, very different), and Monice Peter (who hasn’t been on Calgary stages in almost a decade and has had an insane career).

But most likely, you are going to be captivated by the set and projection design by Andy Moro. The set is two levels of moving panels with constantly changing projections both in front of and behind the action. (As in there are some scenes that take place behind the panels. Obsessed.) The way that this constantly evolving environment creates such a strong sense of space is truly magical.

Final Thoughts?

Of course, your mileage may vary. Personal taste is personal taste and, though this show is very good, it might not be your taste. But it’s definitely worth checking out and deciding for yourself. The Extractionist runs until Sunday, February 26. Tickets can be purchased by visiting their website or calling (403) 221 3708.

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