HOSPITALITY 3: INDIVIDUALISM WAS A MISTAKE by PME-ART (Harbourfront Centre/PME-ART). At Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay West. To November 22. $15-$30. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNN
Are we a single unit known as a community or individuals pulling at the fabric of the group?
That's the question explored in the world premiere of the latest World Stage show, Hospitality 3: Individualism Was A Mistake, by Montreal-based collective PME-ART (Caroline Dubois, Claudia Fancello and Jacob Wren).
In this audience-involving production - don't worry, your involvement is a gentle one: everyone provides written answers to four questions, no one's pulled onto the stage - the trio of performers recite incidents from their past and that of others, share some tunes on vinyl records, play a series of musical instruments and look at the nature of fighting, compromise and power.
The performance turns the audience into a microcosm of society, asking us to think about social niceties and social nervousness: how we engage and get involved with each other and how we sometimes don't. There are no answers to the questions posed; responses are as many as there are people in the audience.
Along the way you'll hear stories about and music by rock musician Robert Wyatt, Fugazi's Ian MacKaye and one-album band wonders Red Guitars, watch some gymnastics involving a old-fashioned record player and see vinyl album covers strewn around the stage of the Enwave Theatre.
There's an improv nature to the performance, a sweetly engaging quality to the work of the trio of creator/actors that doesn't aim for narrative or logical coherence but does suggest the disparity between separation and connectedness.
Take the episode in which Wren, Fancello and Dubois play the various instruments earlier scattered on the floor. They create solo and group rhythms while trying to keep as physically distanced as possible from each other and even from the instruments they're playing. Later on, every item onstage - chairs, table, instruments, books - are carefully balanced one on the other. Nothing stands alone; despite their differences, every object is dependent on another object in a large piece of free-form sculpture.
Is this vision of interlocking pieces how we're to think about society? And is the subtitle of the piece an ironic jab?
No, Hospitality 3 isn't going to be to everyone's taste. While many audience members nod their heads to the musical rhythms the trio play, a few others yawn with boredom during the stories and the final group look at the audience's responses to the questions posed during the preshow.
But I found lots in which to get involved. Best of all is the performers' playful nature, which of course is reflected in the piece itself. Hospitality 3 may look at some serious philosophical matters, but it does so in the most light-hearted manner.