STEM STEM STEM
created and performed by Les Vaches (Erika Hennebury and Ruth Madoc-Jones) and House of Slacks (Greg MacArthur and Clinton Walker). February 7-11, 10 pm. les vaches and house of slacks just wanna branch out. They've come up with a blooming great way of doing it -- collaborating on Stem, an hour-long Rhubarb! entry.Long admirers of each other's work, Les Vaches' Erika Hennebury and Ruth Madoc Jones (The Ecstatics, Jekyll) and House of Slacks' Greg MacArthur and Clinton Walker (U.I. Or Die, dangling) began working last spring on a piece about love and obsession.
"Set at a dinner party, the show explores what happens when you can't be present in a social situation because of preoccupations with desire, loss and loneliness," offers Madoc-Jones, whose other work includes YPT shows Alice and The Hobbit.
"The existential questions we raise suggest that there's no solace to be found among friends. All you can do is participate in a dance that passes the time but doesn't give you a means to express or exorcise your obsessions."
Despite the seriousness of the topic, Stem is shot through with comic bits. Though the ironic, often absurd comedy that threads through the companies' individual works is toned down, Madoc-Jones thinks Stem's subtle, dry humour involving juxtaposition, repetition and delicate timing will sneak up on people.
"Lacking a traditional structure and linear narrative, the expressionistic piece has a jagged quality, with appendages that shoot off from a central stem, as a leaf has. One moment it's hyper-naturalistic, another it's poetic, with sharply theatrical segments that express inner turmoil."
This current stage of an ongoing, organic creative process includes input from DJ Neal Hall and Shauna Janssen.
"I don't know if Erika and I have worked in a collaboration where the creation was so efficient and the communication so clear. It's magic when you can find a group with this kind of maturity."JKRHUBARB! FESTIVAL,several dozen new works by Canadian artists. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander). Opens Wednesday (February 7) and runs to February 25, Wednesday-Sunday 7:30 pm, new shows each week; celebrity debates February 14 at 7 pm; Freshly Squeezed Series February 21 at 7 pm. $15 day pass; $20 week pass, $40 festival pass, $8 for 10 pm shows, debates and Freshly Squeezed pwyc. For details, see listings, page 56. 416-975-8555.