POETIC LICENSE written and performed by Erika Batdorf, directed by Todd Hammond. Presented by Moleman Productions at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson). Runs to May 29, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $15-$20, Tuesday and Sunday pwyc. 416-504-7529. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Since Erika Batdorf begins her show Poetic License within a lecture hall as Marti, a buttoned-up literature prof, T. S. Eliot's Ash Wednesday seems like an appropriate place to begin. "Because I cannot hope to turn again," he wrote, "consequently I rejoice, having to construct something / upon which to rejoice."
Eliot was talking about God and the need for a transcendent moment, and so is Batdorf. Throughout the hour and a half we spend in her world with Marti, Marti's paralyzed sister Katherine and their punky guardian angel, Batdorf conducts the same search for meaning.
Her characters discover that such transcendence is not impossible in a cynical, dark society that believes all radical changes have been made. Whether Batdorf makes an artistic change with this play matters little to its success as an emotionally compelling, visually elegant performance.
Billed as a movement theatre artist, Batdorf is more physical sculptor than outright actor or dancer, just as Teresa Pryzbylski 's set plays more as art or architecture than as theatre design.
The set, consisting of only a black iron podium under a sliver of white plexiglas with writing scrawled on it, suggests that the simple is the opposite of the commonplace, and that anything difficult and jarring has some element of ease and comfort within.
And vice versa.
But the very best thing about Poetic License is Batdorf's humour - and the cookies. Yum.
Sitting in my little seat, munching on a circular chocolate wafer (significant to the show) and watching Batdorf was the highlight of my week, possibly my month.