Katherine Cullen and Cyrus Lane (front), Oyin Oladejo and Mayko Nguyen (rear)
TomorrowLove™ sure leads to a lot of sorrow.
For Outside the March’s latest site-specific show, Rosamund Small has written 15 short plays for a company of eight actors who have learned and can play all 30 parts.
All the stories are futuristic, mostly dystopian, and involve love, sex and technology. The initial roles are decided by an audience member’s choice; from that point on, mix-and-match is the order of the day in terms of gender and who’s playing which roles, determined as the show moves on.
Audience members see four of the playlets, the idea being that we can return on another evening to see others. With all the permutations and combinations, there are apparently 472 possible episodes.
The show begins with an elegant waltz by composer/sound designer Richard Feren, choreographed by Robert Binet, in which the eight keep switching partners and moods (from tentative to loving to awkward). Then you’re led by a couple into one of several performance areas to watch your scene, suggested by objects that actors grab: a mask, a cell phone, a space ship, a scarf, a book and so on.
In the four shows I saw, one features a duo dealing with topics they can’t talk about, and another follows a twosome who enter the bodies of avatars for a fantasy evening. In a third, one member of the pair has trouble coping with a past sexual assault. The richest is the fourth, a confrontation between an astronaut and a young woman he hasn’t seen for 19 years; the material grows darker and darker as their history and desires become clear.
At any given performance, you only watch four actors in these scenes. I caught Damien Atkins, Oyin Oladejo, Amy Keating and Cyrus Lane, missed Paul Dunn, Katherine Cullen, Anand Rajaram and Mayko Nguyen.
The four are all razor sharp under Mitchell Cushman’s direction, full of intensity and exciting to watch, especially in the small rooms of The Aorta (get it? a beating heart?), a former funeral parlour, designed in cool white by Anahita Dehbonehie and lit in tones of passionate pink by Nick Blais. (But notice the contorted, weird shadows thrown on the walls and ceiling by the placement of the lights.)
The writing is sometimes less strong. Echoing The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror, the tales’ final ironic twists are often predictable, which removes their intended sting.
But would I go back to see some of the other narratives? You bet.