HOW SOON IS NOW created and performed by bluemouth inc. (Stephen O'Connell, Sabrina Reeves, Lucy Simic, Richard Windeyer) with guest artists Daniel Pettrow and Stacie Morgain Lewis. Presented by the Theatre Centre and bluemouth inc. at the Dupont Lofts (Dupont/Lansdowne). Previews May 17-18, opens Saturday (May 19) and runs to June 1, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. Pwyc-$20. 416-538-0988. Rating: NNNNN
Real estate developers could do worse than follow the career of bluemouth inc. The site-specific troupe has a knack for finding cheap, often run-down buildings right before they get gentrified.
I still remember their first Toronto appearance, in 2000, at a then-modest establishment on College, made into a makeshift barbershop for their piece American Standard. Five years ago, they performed their haunting show Lenz at the pre-renovation Gladstone Hotel. And now they're putting on How Soon Is Now in a loft in the Dupont and Lansdowne area.
"Condos are going up here in August," says member Stephen O'Connell, without irony.
As anyone who's seen a bluemouth show knows, the venue contributes a ton to a show's mood and feel. It's never arbitrary, and you'll never find seats and risers.
"I can't really tell you anything about the space," teases member Richard Windeyer. "It's top secret. There's a series of very small rooms and then a much larger room. It's kind of appropriate for the period we've set the piece in, which is 1930s Europe, sometime between the wars."
In some ways, How Soon Is Now is a remount of the troupe's past SummerWorks piece, The Memory Of Bombs, but it's been tweaked, and the characters are more clearly defined.
"The space has had a huge effect on how the piece has developed," says O'Connell. "And we've brought on two new performers (New York artists Daniel Pettrow and Stacie Morgain Lewis), so the focus has been different. In the SummerWorks production, I think the space was overwhelming - it took over. Here, we're concentrating on the performative aspect."
This time around, the company's also drawing on the Peter And The Wolf tale, particularly the archetype of the wolf. "We're not necessarily following the story, but there's a bit more narrative than in a typical bluemouth show," explains member Sabrina Reeves. "We liked the idea of these Jungian archetypes, like the shadow. We're pulling those out of the story."
O'Connell sees the tale as a great vehicle for examining individual and community or group psychology.
"One of the reference points for us was Freud's Civilization And Its Discontents," he says. "We have creative instincts, but we also have destructive instincts. How do you find a balance? The energy of our destructive force can help creativity, but when does one take over from the other?
"It's also especially relevant in the U.S. today. We're living in a climate where there's such a destructive aspect to humanity. People in New York and the other blue states feel disassociated from all that. How do you address this destruction? Do you act upon it destructively yourself? Or act creatively? That's one of the questions we're addressing here."
They should know. bluemouth inc.'s relocated to New York. Reeves moved three years ago, and O'Connell and Lucy Simic followed a year later. Windeyer's still based in Toronto and commutes for shows.
"It's been like starting from scratch," says O'Connell. "We've remounted a couple of pieces, and the audiences have grown. One of my biggest fears was that the type of work we were doing wouldn't resonate. There's a lot of intellectual work there, with nihilism and cynicism. I feared we might be considered naive. But that hasn't been the case. There's a lot of room for different voices."
And their knack for finding about-to-break neighbourhoods has held up.
"We remounted American Standard in an old barbershop in the Bowery," says O'Connell, "which is a developing neighbourhood."