Review: Fornes X 2: The Successful Life of 3 and Mud

by Lynn on June 3, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

A double bill comprising: The Successful Life of 3 and Mud by Maria Irene Fornés

At a secret space at 213 Augusta Ave. Toronto, Ont.

Directed by Jennifer H. Capraru
Scenography/Projection Designed by Troy Hourie
Lighting by Sandra Marcroft
Costumes by Snezana Pesic
Music/Sound by Cathy Nosaty
Starring: Michelle Latimer
Hardee T. Lineham
Jamie Robinson

A challenging look at the battle of the sexes from two points of view with compelling results.

In The Successful Life of 3 two men meet in a doctor’s office and have a staccato conversation in which they shoot the breeze but also talk about a woman, also seeing the doctor. The men are referred to in the program as He and 3. The woman, the object of their desire, is a hugely buxom lass named She. While She marries He, She is ogled and her breasts are fondled by 3 at the beginning of their relationship. She does not offer a protest. He seems mildly irritated. Time passes. He and She have children—she always seems to be pregnant. He leaves. 3 takes his place for a bit but the three of them seemed to be constantly connected.

The action takes place in a room that is wallpapered from top to bottom in silver ribbed paper (Troy Hourie has designed it). There is an occasional poster asking to save Kensington Market. (The space is in Kensington Market). The seats the characters sit on are in neon colours. He, She and 3 are dressed in a garish, unfashionable manner (Snezana Pesic is the designer). The characters are after all cartoons. In fact this early piece by Maria Irene Fornés is subtitled “Skit for Vaudeville.” The comings and goings of the three are expressed in seemingly unrelated skits that flit from subject to subject at break-neck speed. They deliberately do not modulate their voices or their facial expressions. At no time are we to think these are real people although they express or talk about feelings and things that bug them, albeit in an artificial way.

The cast of three: Hardee T. Lineham as 3, Michelle Latimer as She and Jamie Robinson as He handle the structure and humour of The Successful Life of 3 with consistent conviction and a seamless manner. I love the title. It’s obviously ironic but to whom does it refer? Is it to all three of them, or just the character known as 3? Fornés certainly does get her audience to ponder that.

Mud is completely different—it was written 20 years after The Successful Life of 3. It is realistic in its form and tone. Mae and Lloyd live together. Lloyd seems a bit developmentally challenged. He is child-like but still has a sexual awareness. Mae is more mature but still might be a bit delayed. She barely knows how to read and struggles with even the basic of books. Henry is an older, mature, wiser man. Mae depends on him and invites him to live with them. The triangle that forms is sexually charged. Mae comes on to Henry. Lloyd is jealous and has fits of anger. Something happens to change that dynamic and the play ends with a startling turn of events.

For Mud the audience moves into a different room in this found space, down an alleyway, in the bowels of this building in Kensington Market. The location of Mud is in fact the dressing room of the cast.

It has been fitted out complete with chairs for the audience. Upon entering the space we see various sheets hanging on clothes lines strung across the room. Behind one of the sheets is a silhouette of a man throwing a ball against the wall. The thud of each throw is audible.

Mae enters from the back of the audience and takes each sheet off the pegs to reveal Lloyd throwing the ball. She wears a pleasant dress. He is in baggy, dirty pants and a dingy t-shirt. They banter. Lloyd tends to tease Mae. She endures it but is exasperated. She seems more a caregiver than a partner.

Henry is older, more mature, dresses in a suit. Mae is attracted to him and he to her. When Lloyd perceives that Henry is his rival for Mae’s affections, Lloyd rises to the occasion as best as he can. He stakes his claim on her. Henry is wily. Mae is determined that Henry is preferred. Then matters take a turn and spiral out of control.

As Lloyd, Jamie Robinson keeps that delicate balance between man and man-child. He is impetuous, focused, and frightening in the end.

As Mae, Michelle Latimer has a charm and femininity that hides Mae’s secret, that she is perhaps learning delayed. She is sensual when dealing with Henry and sisterly-bossy when dealing with Lloyd. And as Henry, Hardee T. Lineham is stern, growly-voiced, imposing and formidable. Later when matters change, Lineham is quite impressive in suggesting an injured, helpless man.

While these two plays are so different, they are the same story—the eternal triangle three people involving sex, lust, desire, longing and jealousy. And perhaps love. Director Jennifer H. Capraru has done a formidable job in bringing to life these two different plays that inform the same story. Finding the space alone deserves kudos.

In her program note, Capraru has linked the two plays as being about “a cycle of consumerism and poverty which relates to the changing face of Kensington Market.” I’m not sure I agree with the analogy but am open to the suggestion. More important, I’m glad I journeyed down that alleyway and went down the stairs to find these two intriguing plays.

Theatre Asylum presents:

Run: May 30 to June 14, 2015
Cast: 3, two men, one woman
Running Time: 90 minutes.

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