Saturday, October 22, 2016

Double Bill at Buddies

I mentioned briefly that there are two shows playing at Buddies at Bad Times.  These are actually a production of Nightwood Theatre, though at this point they may be a bit of a co-production with Buddies given they are so prominently displayed on the Buddies' calendar.  I wouldn't say I go to Buddies all that often (probably once a year), though I do try to check out their calendar from time to time.  What is even a bit stranger is that at this point, probably 2/3rds of the shows I've seen there have no appreciable queer content -- that includes last night's shows (Quiver and Mouthpiece), Lorca' Blood Wedding (being reprised this season) and Anthony and Cleopatra.

It looks like this season they are doing an experimental version of Thorton Wilder's Our Town (though it may still not incorporate that much gender-bending).  I'm thinking of going to see Sky Gilbert's It's All Tru, which is much closer to the shows Buddies is best known for putting on.

Both Quiver and Mouthpiece are somewhat experimental.  The actual story in Mouthpiece is extremely thin -- a youngish woman is trying to deal with the death of her mother, which happened the previous day.  She has a number of tasks -- picking a coffin, getting flowers, choosing the dress for her mother to be buried in, and then writing the eulogy.  It's been almost exactly 20 years since my mother died, but I still remember how there is a sort of an assembly line of things to do when death occurs, and people that sort of need to prompt you to keep going through the numbness of it all.  In my case, I didn't have to deal with the eulogy, but I think I was somewhat involved in lining up speakers to read various inspirational writings (mostly from the Bible, but also e.e. cummings and a few other things).  I didn't feel quite as alone or as overwhelmed as this woman.  It does seem to be the pressure to say something meaningful in the eulogy that is the final straw for her, and she teeters between a bit of a feminist-inspired harangue and the nice, proper eulogy that her mother would have expected (just confirming that in many ways the mother was a "doormat" (in her daughter's eyes)).  The same dualism creeps in when she decides how to respond to some random catcalling on the street as she is coming back from the florist.

So the actual story is fairly thin, but what makes it special is that there are two performers representing the chaos in this woman's mind.  About 80% of the time they speak the same lines in essentially the same voice, which is already tricky, but then they also parrot back different voices on the telephone (an aunt, a couple of self-involved friends and perhaps an ex-boyfriend).  When they do different voices in tandem, the effect is quite stunning.  I can't imagine quite how much time they put into rehearsing, but it must have been a lot.  From a purely performative perspective, this is worth checking out.

However, if you are more interested in plot, and can only see one show, then Quiver is a bit meatier.  What makes this stand-out is that it is one performer playing all the roles in a show, using a voice processor.  The video here gives a fairly good idea of what the show is like.  It is basically the story of a single mother and her two teenaged daughters with the main focus on the younger daughter, Maddie.  In a way, it reminds me a bit of the family in Freedman's Sister Cities, though if we were watching the mother when she was still in her salad days and was kind of running through men.  It's certainly a bit tragic how Maddie has to grow up so early and become the responsible one in the family, but you do have a sense that she will emerge from the wreckage of her childhood as a fairly strong person.  I just thought of another connection -- Tremblay's Yours Forever, Marie-Lou -- where there is one conservative sister and one fairly wild sister.  In this case, Tremblay somewhat reverses expectations and our sympathy basically lies with the wilder one who ultimately has a healthier attitude towards society and relationships, while the conservative one is just too closed off from the world and a bit priggish to boot.  In Quiver, we aren't supposed to dislike the older sister (she's self-centered but not really a bad seed), but the balance of our sympathy is with the younger one.  Anyway, it was worth taking a gamble on it.

Edit (11/1): It's sort of interesting that most reviewers seem to favor Mouthpiece a bit over Quiver.  I don't mind that so much, but I found this review troubling, since it in some ways just reinforces the idea that women tear down other women, almost as much as they tear themselves down. The quote is "we’re left wondering why describing a woman’s strength means using terms invoking women who operated in traditionally male roles and music that operates in a traditionally male sphere."  This to me just reeks of the dead end that many branches of academic feminism have found themselves in.  Is it not up to women to decide how they want to find their own voice?  Wouldn't the reviewer be carping about how stereotypical it would be if the artists used weaving or macrame or something along those lines instead of singing?  I think the reviewer is being somewhat perverse in claiming that women can't find an authentic voice in a male-dominated profession, i.e. music, when by that token she shouldn't find her voice in writing for newspapers, where the ownership and control is at least as male dominated as the music industry.  I've had a number of issues with this reviewer, and I think at this point, I will just stop reading her reviews.  I would still encourage interested parties to check out the double bill at Buddies and not to worry so much about the fact there is singing involved...

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