BREATHE ELECTRIC by Katie Brown, and ROUND ROTUND RUMPS by Richard Feren, both directed by Stephen Seabrook, with Robin Cunningham, Melanie Windle, Josh Jacobson, Tania McCartney, Zoellyn Onn and Andrea Ramolo. Presented by Cat-in-the-Box Theatre and Gravy Boy at the Factory Studio Theatre (125 Bathurst). Runs to March 7, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $21, stu/srs $16, matinees pwyc. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNN
The fringe is a few months away , but this intriguing double bill of one-acts would fit right in. Low-budget, inoffensive, with a couple of good moments and plenty of predictability. Fine for an afternoon's amusement, but not quite weighty enough for the regular season. Katie Brown 's Breathe Electric is a 40-minute two-hander that begins with a strangulation in a bathtub and then takes us backwards to the events leading up to it.
There's a tautness to Brown's eerily poetic script, in which lines from T.S. Eliot and allusions to Japanese films rub shoulders with sexual fetishes and theories about time.
As the piece progresses, the characters' lives open up, hinting at deeper psychologies and little twists, although some images, like trains, aren't developed fully. This reverse-chronology structure has been used before, but there are committed performances by Robin Cunningham and Melanie Windle , and Brown and director Stephen Seabrook sustain our interest, especially with the rumbling, disturbing sound design by Richard Feren , which only occasionally sounds like a THX movie ad.
Feren's own work, Round Rotund Rumps , feels a lot longer than it really is. This break-the-fourth-wall piece tries to comment on the state of avant-garde theatre, the practice of staging readings of new work and possibly the sadism inflicted by directors on actors.
It's a lot of silly, postmodern fun, but does Feren think we haven't seen this all before? At the end, the energetic actors run around the stage and knock each other out until only one is left. Soon all of them are prostrate, their rear ends exposed. Is this a statement about the competitive nature of the biz? Or merely a silly illustration of the title? Or none of the above?