By Amy Rutherford. Directed by Anita Rochon. A Studio 58 production, in association with Touchstone Theatre. At Studio 58 on Saturday, November 17. Continues until December 2
THE EXQUISITE pain of a girl growing up—canadian playwright Amy Rutherford captures it in all its excruciating, awkward detail in her new play Mortified.
Studio 58 brings her coming-ofage story to life with strong lead performances and a production that’s as metaphorically visionary as it is physically charged.
In it, an unnamed Woman (Lindsey Angell) reflects on—and goes back to confront—her younger self, Girl (Emily Jane King), after running into an old boyfriend in the mall. She’s still traumatized, more than two decades later, by the memories that play out in front of her—of a naive, overscheduled 13-year-old hooking up with a 21-year-old dirtbag named Ty (Isaac Mazur).
In Pam Johnson’s brilliant set, the play takes place surreally on the bottom of an old swimming pool, with a diving board overhead, chipped blue tiles along its rim, and watery light dancing on its walls. The set transforms easily from high-school hallways to the lonely headspace where a girl feels like she’s sinking, alone. The play’s sinister, stiletto-wearing swim coach (Jessie Liang) often prowls the diving board above Girl.
An ever-changing chorus, as everyone from dance-clubbers to students in sweat suits, moves the action along at a buzzy pace. At one point the group holds a sheet, stuffies, and pillows aloft to give us an overhead view of Girl’s bed. Elsewhere, they don satin and nose clips to perform a slapstick synchronized-swimming routine. Between director Anita Rochon’s blocking and choreographer Amber Funk Barton’s physical chops, the piece is a kinetic marvel.
But it wouldn’t all work without the natural, nuanced performance by King. As gangly as a fawn, and always wearing jelly shoes that remind us she’s on the edge of childhood, she finds an honesty and a guileless curiosity. Most important to Rutherford, it seems, is that Girl is never a victim. When she makes mistakes—and, dear God, they’re whoppers—we understand why. She’s feeling alienated in a new school, she’s in a perfectionist sport, and she’s constantly being fed sexualized images of teens.
Angell, too, finds raw, real-feeling emotion as her older, together-butfalling-apart self. Ian Butcher paints a fantastic portrait of loserdom as the middle-aged and utterly untormented Ty. And Mazur builds threat behind his dense man-child—the kind you’ll instantly recognize from the mall, complete with five-sizestoo-big jeans hanging off his ass.
The play goes to some incredibly dark places, but Rutherford, surprisingly, finds a lot of laughter. Sometimes it comes from Girl’s Ward Cleaver– esque dad (Nolan Mcconnell-fidyk), who thinks a good game of Boggle can solve anything; sometimes it comes from the absurdities of the timetravelling premise (note the reaction when Woman shows her cellphone to high-schoolers who have only ever seen a pager). Rutherford has a knack for vivid and unpretentious detail; we know Ty smells like the “inside of a cardboard box”. And she’s unafraid to go there: in one scene, King’s character learns how to use a tampon.
Come to think of it, the very fearlessness of Mortified is the biggest strength of a play that has many. In this #Metoo moment, Rutherford is drawing from real-life experience to shade in the complexities of consent and shame. And 25 years later, society is sending teen girls more mixed messages than ever. If you know one, or you were one who made mortifying mistakes of your own, you need to see this show. by Janet Smith
BACIO ROSSO At Queen Elizabeth Park on Tuesday, October 30. Continues until December 31
BACIO ROSSO IS unlike anything Vancouver has ever seen. Where else do you get a room full of strangers breaking into an impromptu dance party while a powerhouse cabaret singer encourages the limbo in an evening where plates fly, a magician reads minds, and a pair of muscular trapeze artists strip down to their sparkling skivvies, all within a few feet of your dinner table?
Complete with a fantastic live band that includes accordion, clarinet, and trumpet, the show is boisterous and fun. The cast is stellar. But the production isn’t perfect.
The three-and-a-half-hour event, which includes a four-course meal, takes place near the public tennis courts at Queen Elizabeth Park in a spiegeltent, or “mirror tent” (because of the hundreds of bevelled mirrors inside). Named the Magic Cristal, it was imported from Belgium just for the run and is draped in red velvet.
Meaning “red kiss” in Italian, Bacio Rosso is full of surprises. Suffice it to say this is a show that breaks down the fourth wall. There are two stages, one for the musicians and one in the centre of the intimate room where much of the comedy, acrobatics, dancing, and magic take a place; however, performers also make their way through much of the space, whether they’re playing percussion or impossibly pulling dollar coins from behind spectators’ ears.
The artists are standouts in their respective fields, with Russia’s Dima Shine standing on one hand atop a rotating pole, the shirtless former Cirque du Soleil member wowing with his graceful strength. Unlike in most other circus shows, though, performers here are so close that we can see beads of sweat forming on their sculpted bodies; their proximity makes the physicality of their acts all the more impressive.
We couldn’t get enough of two
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Ella Storey, Emily Jane King, Nolan Mcconnell-fidyk in Mortified.