by Lynn on April 24, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following reviews were broadcast on Friday, April 24, 2015. CIUT FRIDAY MORNING 89.5 fm Mouthpiece at the Theatre Centre until May 3, 2015, Little Death at the Theatre Centre as part of the Riser Project, until May 3, 2015. And, Tagged at Young People’s Theatre until May 8, 2015.

The Host was Phil Taylor

Good Friday morning. It’s theatre fix time with Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. What are you telling us about this week?

I have three this week,

Mouthpiece is about a woman finding her voice and being honest about her mother. Little Death is about a dying man who wants to experience other women and hopes his wife is fine with that.

These two plays are part of the Riser Project at the Theatre Centre—a new collaborative producing model to help small independent theatre do their own theatre without having to go broke.

And the last play is Tagged at Young People’s Theatre, about the repercussions when a young teen is photographed in a compromising position and the pictures go viral on YouTube.

A full line-up. First tell us about The Riser Project.

It was created by Ravi Jain, the Artistic Director of Why Not Theatre. With his collaborators it brings together emerging artists and senior leaders of theatre companies, to work together to help support the artistic risk of the emerging artists to put on their kind of theatre. Everyone shares the risk, resources and the energy. Four shows are involved. I saw two this month and will see the next two next month.

And what about the two shows: >Mouthpiece and Little Death.

Mouthpiece is presented by Quote Unquote Collective. The show was created and is performed by Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken. Nostbakken also directs and wrote the evocative music.

From the program: “Mouthpiece follows one woman, for one day, as she tries to find her voice”. The woman is Cass. She is a writer. A feminist. In control but then her mother dies and there are things to arrange.

She believes she is totally different from her mother—she thinks her mother was a doormat who didn’t make waves, always tried to please. Cass does not think she can speak at her mother’s funeral she is so angry at the kind of woman her mother was.

The play explores the relationship between mother and daughter; how we differ from but are firmly bound to our mothers. It’s about finding one’s voice.

How do the two women play one person?

Nora Sadava and Amy Nostbakken are in white bathing suits and begin in a white bathtub. That’s the only prop. Cass’s mother said there was no problem that couldn’t be solved with a hot bath. The two women begin by singing softly in unison. The movement is intricate and also in synch. It’s almost balletic, graceful, supporting and of course, looks effortless.

It’s a world of trying to figure out what you think. Ideas, thoughts, doubts and opinions are shared. The picture of Cass’s mother is not too flattering, but as the funeral comes close, Cass changes. She realizes who her mother was and subsequently who she is. The question of talking at her mother’s funeral is resolve.

I loved this piece. I loved the creativity of it; the emotional power of it and the movement that spoke volumes in silence.

And with simple story-telling, Sadava and Nostbakken tackled weighty questions of mother-daughter relationships, love; frustration etc.

And how about Little Death?

It’s written by Daniel Karasik, a young playwright whose writing has been celebrated. While Little Death wants to be about something weighty, big questions, supposedly about marriage, fidelity, understanding etc. I think it misses the mark. It’s still interesting, but the big questions are too inflated.

We are told that Alex (the only man in this play) is dying. I have no reason to doubt him. He tells his wife, Brit, who is his childhood sweetheart, he has never known any other woman but her.

He wants to explore other sexual encounters. He hopes Brit will be ok with that. (She’s not.) She waits up for him (he almost always comes home) to see how everything went. He becomes impatient with her worry and hovering. She becomes infuriated and hurt. The volatility of real life with real fears pushes into Alex’s world.

Why do you think the ideas are flat?

Because Alex expects an awful lot of accommodation from his wife and is upset that she’s upset. He says it’s not good for him to have this animosity. He sometimes doesn’t come home because he doesn’t want to face her wrath.

Karasik has created a spoiled brat man who is not facing his life or death. The need for other women is not esoteric, it’s childish. It’s about sex. Hardly esoteric.

The conversations in the bar between Alex and the various women he picks up seem to make an effort to be highly intellectual, when all you want to say to him is get your head out of your navel and get a grip, on your wife, preferably.

But you don’t dismiss the character and the various women quickly at all and that’s because of the wonderful performance of Christopher Stanton as Alex and the rest of the cast.

What makes Stanton so good?

He gives a sensitive performance of a man who is dying and that just prays on him. Stanton looks lost and sad and vulnerable. There is frustration, but the other humanizing aspects are all there in his dandy performance.

As his wife Brit, Nicole Underhay tries to comfort and support her husband, but she is really the wronged woman. He shuts her out. This causes terrible stress and loneliness as a result.

Karaskik has been blessed with a strong cast who enliven his play. I had trouble with director Zachary Florence’s fussy staging. And for some reason the set by Jenna McCutchen is just too broad and unwieldy. Lots of ramps and walkways. To much distraction. Great cast though…especially Christopher Stanton and Nicole Underhay.

And now to Tagged. What’s the story?

Written by Dave Deveau. A play for our time. A teenaged girl named Sam goes to a party thrown by Jerri, her best girlfriend, she thinks. Sam gets drunk and passes out.

Jerri and her friends think it’s hilarious to put the unconscious Sam in compromising positions, write SLUT on her forehead with lipstick, take pictures of her and upload them to YouTube where they go viral.

Another friend named Webber records everything in his day on his cell-phone and has a field day with this party, which he recorded too. It’s not so funny when both of them are hauled into the police station for questioning by a Constable.

Sam has made a formal complaint to the police and they question both kids—they are about 16–about what happened.

Jerri is a particular piece of work. Totally mouthy, entitled, arrogant, spoiled, doesn’t get along with her mother very much. The father seems to be absent, perhaps the parents are divorced and she keeps threatening the Constable that when her father –also a cop—hears about this, there will be trouble.

It seems that Sam was seeing Jerri’s ex-boyfriend and Jerri reacted by planning this cruel joke of taking pictures of her in compromising positions. She doesn’t see the consequences of her actions and doesn’t take responsibility for them.

I think Deveau has captured this culture of filming everything as a record, (for what asks the Constable?); taking pictures, no matter how wrong, and pressing send to YouTube without thinking or hesitation. It’s a culture where being famous, and known is more important than being responsible.

I squirmed all the way through it for all the right reasons.

How was the production?

Terrific. It was directed by Leslie Jones with a firm, focused hand. It is a mix of the Constable honing in on either Jerri or Webber by staring at them at close range or asking a pointed question with her back to them, looking at us.

It’s beautifully acted by Agnes Tong as Jerri with that sharp, snotty voice; Scott Button as Webber, a nebbish who wants desperately to be somebody, and Gili Roskies as the Constable, calm, smart, manipulative and pointed when it counts.

Tagged is an important play reflecting the world that teens live in. The teen audience I saw it with, on cue, knew when a character was not being truthful, or knew that a character made a decision or said something that got them, the audience, very vocal.

I think every teenager and his/her parent should see Tagged at Young People’s Theatre.

Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at Twitter @slotkinletter.

Mouthpiece plays at the Theatre Centre as part of the Riser Project until May 3, 2015.

Little Death plays at the Theatre Centre as part of the Riser Project, until May 3, 2015

Tagged plays at Young People’s Theatre until May 8, 2015.

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