(NOD) by Rick Roberts (Theatre Gargantua). See theatre openings. Rating: NNNNN
The perfect family only exists in Leave It To Beaver. It's impossible not to be stuck with a few family neuroses. How you deal with them determines individual as well as clan health.
The single-parent family unit in Rick Roberts's (nod) travels a dreamlike and darkly comic road after Mother dies and then comes back to life, arguing with her three kids and a shadowy tenant.
The show marks a new path for Theatre Gargantua, the first outside commission for a troupe known for its physical work and striking visuals. The production's also a learning experience for first-time Gargantuan Aaron Willis, who plays the family's youngest son.
"We're trying to develop a performance style that Rick calls almost vaudevillian," says Willis. "The characters have a cartoonish feel as well as emotional truth."
Willis sees his care-giving character as the family janitor who remained at home to take care of Mother.
"Young Brother stays mostly out of a sense of obligation to her, though she's grown bad-tempered by the end. He dreams of escape, but he's caught by feelings of guilt and duty."
Willis's training and instincts are to work on a part naturalistically, but here he adds a challenging physical dimension. His previous work has been in text-based shows like Well and Awake And Sing. In the latter, Willis gave a strong performance as an optimistic young man during the Depression.
"Here, my character's a hunchback, so I'm in a crouch most of the time. We all have to listen and react to each other with our bodies and our ears.
"I've had to rewire my acting antennae," he laughs.