by Lynn on April 18, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Five Points Theatre, Barrie, Ont.

Written by Adam Meisner

Directed by Brandon Crone

Set and lighting by Joe Pagnan

Costumes and properties by Holly Lloyd

Cast: Maja Ardel

Jakob Ehman

Xavier Lopez

Vanessa Smythe

Alexander Thomas

And endlessly fascinating play about the future and the past, given a meticulous, compelling production.

The Story. We are 150 years in the future and it’s a world without gender. Pronouns are not used in speech, nor are contractions. People are not referred to by name but by the word “ish” if it’s about a third person. The only particular identifier in the program of a character’s name is the word “ish” followed by a number such as ish62, ish34 etc., although no character calls any other character by that designation.  Ish62 seems to be the person in charge. Ish56 is her colleague who offers advice and ideas. Ish34 is an engineer who inspects the house. Ish 20 is a young woman working on the project and Ish84 is an elder statesman of the group. The number in the ‘name’ seems to suggest an age, but I could be wrong.

This Ish group of people is restoring the last house built in 1999. They are meticulous in recreating the furniture, props and other aspects of that time. The purpose is to create the house as a museum. Interestingly, when characters begin to spend time there when the house is finished they begin to speak with pronouns and to refer to others in that way. Contractions enter the vocabulary too. There is a mystery in that house that we soon find out about that is also an intriguing part of this play. Ish84 wants to make and wear an orange gown and heels. And having sex is re-awakened.

The Production.  Director Brandon Crone and his creative team have imagined the world of Adam Meisner’s play with such care and distinction I kept shaking my head and smiling at the inventiveness of their imagination. Joe Pagnan’s set is simple but evocative of 1999: round dining room table, old-fashioned sofa, shelving for knickknacks, big TV and not a flat screen either.  Holly Lloyd’s costumes are grey tunics for both the men and the women. They all wear the same kind of head covering, something like a felt cap with short strips on either side of the head that drop down from the ears like sideburns. There is a bit of extra fabric on the top. The result is that gender is not an issue or regarded separately. They all look androgynous.

Because there are no contractions in this speech, for the most part, the result sounds stilted and artificial, which is the intent. The voices are soft, almost uninflected but never dull sounding. ISH62 (Maja Ardel) is commanding, forceful and one assumes is in charge. Ardel’s body language is brisk as well, movements are quick and matter of fact. As Ish52, Jakob Ehman is gentle in his quietness, mindful of the rules of his time and curious about what went on in 1999. Time spent in the 1999 house changes things. Ehman as Ish52 because more animated. He is attracted to Ish20 and convinces her to have sex with him. The subtle change in the characters because of the time (1999) and the house in that time,  is fascinating.

 Comment. In his play, For Both Resting and Breeding, Adam Meisner has written an intriguing, imaginative look into the future. He doesn’t explain the change from going from ‘today’ when we are sex crazed and perhaps keenly aware of the shifting focus in gender fluidity to 150 years in the future to a world without gender or the defining pronouns. Language, attitudes, individuality and history are examined. Imagine picking 1999 as a year on which to focus attention, and making every effort to recreate that time. Has Meisner written a satire of our times by focusing on the far future? Not sure. But he does have a compelling imagination and a smart facility with language that in turn gets us to examine think about our world and the future he has created.

And of course, leave it to Arkady Spivak, the gifted Artistic Producer of Talk is Free Theatre in Barrie to produce it. I have seen work that is consistently imaginative, beautifully produced and acted in Barrie. I look forward to seeing more, both from Adam Meisner and from Talk is Free Theatre.

Talk is Free Theatre presents:

Opened: April 13, 2018.

Closes: April 21, 2018.

Running Time: 2 hours approx.

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