Coming out Clean
Chris Dupuis has collaborated on site-specific bluemouth inc. shows like Memory Of Bombs and Something About A River, but his striking monologue wash me clean , performed last week as part of Harbourfront's HATCH program, shows he's a natural playwright.
The show takes us into the twisted mind of a 31-year-old gay man (Julian Doucet) who's obsessed with a mumbling, smooth-chested adolescent who's maybe 14.
Dupuis's script - a fine exercise in the subjectivity of narration - subtly draws us into the man's mind, flashing back to painful high school memories that may have set a disturbing life pattern. The details, delivered with great care by Doucet (Phae, Little Dragon), are almost Proustian in their vividness. Gradually, we see how deluded and lonely the man has become.
A theme about the divide between city and country feels patched on - it's unearned. And the script could be tightened. But the minimalist production, with bluemouth member Richard Windeyer 's sound and lighting, is powerful and suggestive. And Dupuis is definitely a writer to watch.
The HATCH series continues this week with Araxi Arslanian 's Klank , a big ensemble piece inspired by the true story of the Kingston Penitentiary for Women (see Opening, page 84, for details).
The 27th Rhubarb! fest is now history, though some of those early shoots may grow again in the summer festivals or elsewhere. Certainly, some of the productions should get more stage life.
We liked a lot in the first week, beginning with Christian Lloyd 's sometimes tense, sometimes funny Getting Lucky , about a drunken sexual encounter in New Orleans. Performers Lloyd and Gray Powell and director Kim Blackwell always kept us guessing about whether we should laugh or worry, and that balancing act proved to be potent theatre.
Other standouts that week were Rob Baker 's Crack , directed by Andrea Donaldson , which took us deeply, upsettingly into the life and head of a crack addict, and Salvatore Antonio 's Load , helmed by David Oiye , in which two very different brothers deal with the death of their statesman father.
Later weeks provided some tasty Rhubarb! dishes, too, including Hannah Moscovitch 's Essay , a series of small power plays involving sex and gender in a university setting, with Claire Jenkins , Jordan Pettle and William Webster directed by Michael Rubenfeld . Anna Chatterton and Njo Kong Kie 's mini-opera knotty together was light and breezy entertainment about two guys' rapid-fire couplings and breakups. Shoshana Sperling and Teresa Pavlinek proved yet again in The Guilty Playroom what great chemistry they have and their ability to touch both the funny bone and the heart.
Corrina Hodgson 's Simply Told , in which a daughter visits her father in prison, maintained a nice tension, shifting between textures and voices, while Toby Rodin 's Arrhythmia Services looked at the wildly comic perceptions of a hospital file clerk.
And while Rhubarb! is about script development, there were also some fine performances. Suzanne Bennett was hysterical as a neurotic mother with a demon-possessed baby in (555) 555 5555 ; Claire Calnan proved charming and eminently watchable in the surreal, poetic Dismantled ; and Michaela Washburn had real focus as a native woman who's renamed herself for a saint in Freeman's Wake .