by Lynn on March 8, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

Peggy Baker and Michael Healey

At the Factory Theatre Studio. Choreographed by Peggy Baker. Written by Michael Healey. Directed by Daniel Brooks. Lighting by Rebecca Picherack. Composer and musician Debashis Sinha. Performed by Peggy Baker and Michael Healey.
Presented by Peggy Baker Dance Projects in association with Necessary Angel.

ARE YOU OKAY is billed as ‘a mutual autobiography in space.’ The press release says that Peggy Baker, Michael Healey and Daniel Brooks, self-described as ‘very old artists’ “navigate a kinetic conversation about creation, physical mastery, body betrayal, the brutal humour of time and the ephemeral nature of professional competence….Baker and Healey create a mutual autobiography in space a simultaneous one-man, one-woman show, colliding in flashes of blind, glorious accident.”

I must have blinked when there were those ‘flashes of blind, glorious accident’ because I missed them.

At the top of the show, writer-actor Michael Healey introduces the creative team. He makes a lame joke about his character’s name that falls flat. He laments where he lives saying the area would appeal to someone under 26. He makes sure he walks to work—a writing studio at the Tarragon Theatre—and tells us the many and various milestones on the way. There is the stretch of the journey that smells of prostitutes; a section of one street that narrows so much that two large cars can’t pass each other; other stretches are more enjoyable; a cat in his way stares him down. A squirrel drops from somewhere so unexpectedly and seems hurt that Healey reflexively blurts out to it, “Are you okay?”

He muses on the repetitiveness of life; that it’s taken up with repeated, dreary actions that one does automatically without thinking. He frets about what he will do once he gets to the office. Writing seems to be one of those drudgeries of life, repetitive. When he does complete his task at the office, he is buoyant and glad he doesn’t have to think about it again. In fact on that long walk to the office, Healey does not seem to spend any time thinking about anything to write about and lots of time musing on the repetitive nature of the journey. He walks around the playing area suggesting his journey, with stops on the way. Healey’s musings have less to do with creation or competence of any kind and lots to do with the moaning about his lot in life.

Peggy Baker on the other hand is a whirl of dancing energy in the middle of the playing space, around which Healey is walking. She takes Healey’s idea of repetition and beautifully creates an artful realization of it—grasping, reaching, arms-flicking, repeating.

Peggy Baker’s dancing is muscular, graceful and so expressive that it is simply glorious, and that’s no accident. Michael Healey’s writing on the other hand is so introspective the ideas seem inaccessible. It’s like watching someone navel gazing who then crochets his navel lint into a scarf. There’s something almost smarmy about his contribution to this work.

The production is stylishly lit by Rebecca Picherack. Daniel Brooks’ staging is very cool and precise. The music and sound scape of Debashis Sinha seems almost irrelevant when set next to Healey’s words yet interesting when woven to Baker’s movement.

Was I okay with this piece? Aside from Baker’s contribution, not really.

ARE YOU OKAY plays at the Factory Theatre Studio until March 13, 2011.

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