BODY 13 by the ensemble, directed by Majdi Bou-Matar (MT Space/Theatre Passe Muraille). At Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). Runs to January 26, Tuesday-Saturday 7:30 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm. $30-$35, under 30 $15. 416-504-7529. See listing. Rating: NNNN
The emotionally powerful collective show Body 13, created by Kitchener's MT Space, is about endings and beginnings.
Set on a sunny beach and dealing with the interrelated lives of seven characters, the work is a kind of day-in-the-life, beginning with the moving attempts of Rita (Pam Patel) to throw her father's ashes into the sea and ending with an unexpectedly sharp-edged banquet speech delivered by the seductive Tom (Brad Cook), best man at a friend's wedding.
In between we meet Assah (Badih AbouChakra), wandering the seashore with an umbrella and unable to articulate his pain and passion except in a laugh that borders on the hysterical, and two pairs of unlikely couples. Iman (Nada Humsi), a newcomer to Canada, starts an unusual relationship with her immigration officer, the younger Rae (Jessalyn Broadfoot). Newfoundlander Tristan (Trevor Copp), a reluctant hockey player, finds he has a lot in common with Ato (Tawiah Ben M'carthy), a Ghanaian man who believes in evil spirits.
A look at passions that cross the lines of race, gender and age, the show explores our desires and how we often stop ourselves from realizing them.
Devised by the company and director Majdi Bou-Matar, Body 13 is as impressive on a physical as on a textual level; it has the same winning theatricality as The Last 15 Seconds, which the company previously brought to Theatre Passe Muraille.
On a white, mostly bare set, designed and lit by Jennifer Jimenez, the characters, costumed in bright colours by Denis Huneault-Joffre, meet in brief vignettes that are sometimes tender, sometime funny (a sunscreen dance is beautifully coordinated) and mostly engaging. Though not all the relationships are sufficiently developed, the actors always display a sharpness of character that establishes who they are and how they relate to the others who intersect their worlds.
The most nuanced of the pairings, between Tristan and Ato, develops slowly, warmly and with gentle humour. Tristan is too shy to make easy contact with another man, while Ato becomes Tristan's protector against foes physical and spiritual. A glimpse into Tristan's past leads to one of the production's most memorable moments, a surreal hockey game that strikingly blends sex and athletics.
The smooth acting ensemble shines in episodes that frequently have a magical, dreamlike quality. Their work, accentuated by the live music composed and played by Nick Storring, Colin Fisher and Germaine Liu, ends on a note of laughter and freedom that joins nearly every character in a celebratory explosion of delight.