Friday, September 22, 2017

Human Noise—Imago Theatre—SE Portland

Tortured Souls

This avant-garde rendering of staged stories by Raymond Carver is directed, choreographed and designed by Jerry Mouawad (co-founder of Imago) and produced by Carol Triffle (co-founder of Imago).  It is playing at their space, 17 SE 8th Ave., just off Burnside (street parking only, so plan your time accordingly), through September 30th.  For more information, go to their site, www.imagotheatre.com or call 503-231-9581.





The fleeting spaces between our ears/loins/veins

Is only so much fodder for the burning emptiness we call Life.

We cling to breath, wringing out the last vestiges

Of memories in the explosive strands of what once was,

And can never be again.

We disconnect in imaginative ways,

Passing others like ships on a foggy night, seeing figures,

But never really knowing which ones are the phantoms.

We grope/gripe/grovel

Love/hate/search

For the something we deserve, we demand,

Just out of reach of our understanding.

It is in this moment

We begin again.

To review many Imago shows in the conventional ways seems downright rude and unsatisfying.  I believe they never mean for us to pick through a production with inadequate words but to go with the flow of kinetic energy that dominates their works.  They mean for us to feel and, in doing so, connect with a deeper understanding of our worlds and what makes us tick.

But for the conventional sorts, there are four stories here, which all have similar connective tissues.  The first, “Neighbors,” involves one couple, Bill (Michael Streeter) and his wife, Arlene (Carol Triffle), who are to cat-sit for their neighbors, Jim (Nathan Wonder) and Harriet (Danielle Vermette), who will be out of town vacationing for an indeterminate length of time.  But Bill and Arlene’s lives somehow become strangely intertwined by the lives of these people, and they seem to become absorbed into the fabric of their neighbors’ existence.

The second story, “A Serious Talk,” involves two exes, Burt (Nathan Wonder) and Vera (Danielle Vermette) who seem drawn to each other during the holidays, in this case, Christmas.  They can’t seem to stay away from each other and yet are destructive toward one another. They cling to and tear at each other, often at the same time.

The third episode, “Gazebo,” a couple who manage a run-down motel, Holly (Emily Elizabeth Welch) and Duane (Bryan Smith), seem to be at the end of their ropes, as they have both become drunks and have a love/hate relationship.    Duane has had an affair with one of the maids, Juanita (Sara Fay Goldman) and although it seems to be over, he really can’t forget her.  The most telling moment of the union (and my favorite of all these stories) is when Holly recalls a time meeting an old couple on a farm and the tale of them and their Gazebo.  It is the missing piece of this jigsaw puzzle.

And, lastly is the poem, “Torture,” which again, has two lovers, Wonder and Goldman in South America, who are not good for each other, and they know it, but can’t seem to keep their hands off each other, either.  All these stories have broken people and relationships who seem to be trying to reinvent themselves and become something they aren’t.  The human condition is like that, it just doesn’t give up.

It should be mentioned, too, that Mouawad and Triffle both have movement/dance heavily involved with their shows, which simply adds to the depth and pleasure of experiencing them.  I don’t pretend to understand all the purposes of the motions but I sense that it works on a deeper level in appreciating the pieces and it succeeds in this production, too, thanks to Mouawad’s leadership.  Every one of the actors is fully vested in their portrayals and I believed the plight of every one of them.  The characters are all very human, flawed perhaps, but identifiable.

I recommend the show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.