The spirit of youthful experimentation, doomed relationships and rock 'n' roll anarchy is alive and well and living in the intentionally cluttered back room of the Cameron House. That's where Heart in Hand Theatre's production of the Sam Shepard/Patti Smith collaboration, Cowboy Mouth, is currently making noise until Valentine's Day.
That date is appropriate, because the rarely performed piece feels in some ways like a bittersweet love story between two tortured souls. Slim (Jason Collett) is a musician who's temporarily left his wife and child to shack up with Cavale (Jessica Huras), a suicidal woman who's clinging to her past and her ideas of spirituality.
The 45-minute show is as raw and messy as Akiva Romer-Segal's set, which features a drum kit, licence plates (nice touch) and those milk crates that every artistic type owns in their 20s. Oh yeah, and there's Cavale's constant companion, a dead crow.
Through snatches of occasionally poetic dialogue, the two fight, make up and make out, all while dancing, jumping on the unmade bed and occasionally stepping up to a mic to sing. When they're bored they call up the Lobster Man, a sort of surreal, grunting delivery dude played in full crustacean uniform by Mikey Lipka.
This is more mood piece than well-written play, and director Esther Jun, helped by Brett Rayner's subtle lighting design, suggests flashbacks and changing emotional rhythms.
Huras nails Cavale's monologue about her ugly duckling childhood, but can't make much of her character's musical-religious blatherings. Broken Social Scene's Collett, though, is endlessly watchable, exuding a restless, electric charisma.
Too bad the company hasn't chosen to extrapolate and begin the show with a couple of live numbers, perhaps performed by Collett as Slim (with Cavale watching?). That might provide layers of complexity and backstory to the characters while taking advantage of the venue's own history and adding value to the ticket price.