Review: HOOK UP

by Lynn on January 31, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

Emily Lukasik
Photo: Dahlia Katz


At Theatre Passe Muraille, Toronto, Ont.

Music by Chris Thornborrow

Libretto by Julie Tepperman

Direction and dramaturgy by Richard Greenblatt

Set and costumes by Kelly Wolf

LX and video design by Monty Martin

Sound by Chris Thornborrow

Music director and pianist, Jennifer Tung

Percussionist, Greg Harrison

Second pianist, Andrea Grant

Cast: Alicia Ault

Nathan Carroll

Alexis Gordon

Jeff Lillico

Emily Lukasik

A modern opera about teenage sex, consent and its sobering consequences. The story and production packs a punch. Important theatre.

The Story. From the press information: “Three friends hit university—no parents, new friends, new rules and new normal. But freedom is complicated. Hook Up raises questions of consent, shame and power in the lives of young adults navigating uncharted waters on their own.”

Mindy (Emily Lukasik), her boyfriend Tyler (Nathan Carroll) and her friend Cindy (Alicia Ault) are all going to the same university and will live in residence. I reckon they are all 18 year-old or so. Mindy’s parents (Jeff Lillico and Alexis Gordon) help her move into her single dorm room and leave with instructions to be careful, implied is being careful about ‘sex’. Her father warns her gently about Tyler. Too late. Mindy and Tyler have already had sex and have it as often as they can. Cindy hoped to room with Mindy but Mindy requested a single room so she could have more private time with Tyler.

The friendship of the three changes in university. Cindy feels left out of Mindy’s life because she spends so much time with Tyler. Cindy makes up for it by going to parties and ‘hooking up’ with various partners. Tyler joins a study group and Mindy thinks he might be seeing someone else. Mindy goes to a party with Cindy and things go off the rails.

The Production.  Kelly Wolf’s set of Mindy’s room is on a movable base and can be rotated for effect. Cindy and Tyler have scenes above the stage that suggest their separate rooms.  There are several panels above the stage on which are projected e-mails and text messages from the three friends as well as photos and other images.

As with any opera, I won’t comment on Chris Thornborrow’s music except to say that in the scene that changes everything for these three friends, rather than being graphic, what is happening is suggested. Thornborrow’s music is pulsing and gradually driving as the scene builds.  Richard Greenblatt’s sensitive, clear-eyed direction uses splashes of red projections to add to the heightened emotions. The audience’s imagination kicks in and is more effective that a blow-by-blow graphic depiction of what might be happening.

Julie Tepperman’s libretto captures the short-hand of these young adults (teens) on social media so well I had to look some of them up (rotf, tbh) to find out WTF (sorry) they were saying. She has captured the angst of their age, their social pressures and the euphoria of being on their own for the first time and free to do what they like without parents looking over their shoulder, disapprovingly. But she has not drawn them as totally irresponsible. While Mindy and Tyler make out regularly they have limits and those limits are respected. Tyler wants to make sure Mindy is agreeable to some suggestions and if she isn’t, he stops. Mindy wants to experiment but will stop if it gets too weird. Cindy seems free and easy but also has a sense of responsibility towards herself and Mindy. Cindy carries condoms. She senses that Mindy might be going into new territory and wants to make sure she is safe. She stops short of insisting she not do what she is about to do. These are friends trying to do right by each other.

There is a scene at the beginning when the friends are welcomed to the school’s orientation. They are read the rules from both a man (leading the male students) and a woman leading the women: don’t drink in the room, lock your door for protection etc. But the male student says some things as a joke that should set off alarms, suggesting a male culture there is something one should be wary of.

The cast to a person is terrific. Besides being wonderful singers, they are all very strong actors. Mindy, as played by Emily Lukasik is a mix of young euphoria at her new found freedom and soul-crushing despair when she deals with her shattering night at the party. Cindy, as played by Alicia Ault is buoyant, carefree, yet hurt when it seems that Mindy is ignoring her and certainly concerned for her at the party. Nathan Carroll plays Tyler with boyish enthusiasm and certainly naïve confusion as he tries to figure out what his girlfriend wants and what she means when she talks to him. Jeff Lillico plays Mindy’s loving, caring father who tries not to be too smothering. While Alexis Gordon plays Mindy’s mother with just a touch of anxiousness, Gordon absolutely shines when playing Heather. There is an ache to the performance and a resolve that shows the strength of the character, and Heather’s strength is certainly needed. While Richard Greenblatt directs with imagination and care, he deals with the scenes in which Mindy is dealing with the aftermath of the party with such sensitivity and tenderness it’s breathtaking.

Comment. Hook Up deals with issues that young adults, late teens etc. are dealing with daily. To the people involved these are huge issues. Opera, even a ‘small’ opera like this, gives the issues size. We seem to have read about these situations for so long—kid goes to a party, gets drunk, is taken advantage of etc. Does this show make it a cliché? No. Not to the women involved, or their friends who feel guilty for not doing more, or their boyfriends who weren’t there to help.

 Hook Up looks at issues that teens are dealing with and treats them with respect, compassion and generosity of spirit. It’s an important work.

Tapestry Theatre in partnership with Theatre Passe Muraille presents:

Opened: Jan. 30, 2019.

Closes: Feb. 9, 2019.

Running Time: 90 minutes

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