CARESSES by Sergi Belbel, directed by Soheil Parsa, with Andrew Bunker, Joan Heney, Frances Kushner, Mark Nykoluk, Bruce Alexander Pitkin and Beatriz Pizano. Presented by Equity Showcase at Harbourfront Centre's Studio Theatre (235 Queen's Quay West). Runs to May 13, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. Pwyc ($8 suggested). 416-533-6100. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
caresses, by catalan author Sergi Belbel, purports to be about the difficulty of communication and sharing feelings. But in performance it's really about how a sensitive director and skilful actors give textured layers to simple but resonant encounters.
Each of the work's 11 scenes involves two unnamed figures, one of whom moves on to the next. When it works, the episodes are incisive.
The physical and verbal violence between the opening couple, Mark Nykoluk and Beatriz Pizano, is gripping and frightening in its emotional shifts.
In her two scenes, Joan Heney brings dignified nobility to an old woman with a shaky hold on the past, while Bruce Alexander Pitkin's Man has an intentionally ambiguous scene with his son (James Acton), and another in which he breaks off with his lover (Frances Kushner). Kushner's Girl is a bottle of nitroglycerin waiting to explode, whether she's insulting Pitkin or fuming quietly while her father (Alan Rosenthal) prepares a meal.
Director Soheil Parsa shapes the material carefully, using silences as surely as words. Not all the actors help him realize his vision of the piece, a problem especially noticeable in the final scene's surprising tenderness.