Review: Cowboy Mouth (Pomme Grenade Productions/The Playwright Project)

Adam Kenneth Wilson and Vanessa Dunn in Cowboy Mouth

Pomme Grenade’s Cowboy Mouth is another successful piece in Toronto’s Playwright Project

Cowboy Mouth is a play written by Patti Smith and Sam Shepard. It’s currently onstage as part of The Playwright Project. I was fortunate to see it at one of my favourite places in Toronto, The Cameron House, with one of my favourite people, Mike. All of these ingredients make for quite an enjoyable evening.

The Playwright Project is an extremely ambitious and a fantastic idea. That it has become a reality, and in its second year, is a minor miracle.

Cowboy Mouth is a dark play about mental illness and substance abuse. It first saw the light of day in 1971. Those were different days, when popular “Gods” were drugs and Mick Jagger. Times change, and maybe that sort of debauchery isn’t in vogue anymore, and maybe it never was very cool. But then again, I could be an old curmudgeon.

Cowboy Mouth is a claustrophobic play. It takes place in a small room. A bed, piano and drum kit are the only items joining Slim (Adam Kenneth Wilson) and Cavale (Vanessa Dunn). The two seem trapped in the room, either through love, drugs, mental illness or a combination.

The play is basically a conversation between a man and woman. Seeing it on a Friday night made perfect sense. It came across like a ridiculous evening that we’ve all been part of after a long week and too many cocktails. The kind we all regret in the morning. I’m not saying I regret seeing the play. On the contrary, it brought back memories of a youth misspent. It made my blood flow a little quicker and dropped a couple of decades off my age.

Both Mike and I agreed that Vanessa Dunn was sensational. She seemed to totally morph into the role of Cavale. She displayed a passion rarely seen by our eyes. We also thought she sang with an amazing voice. I’ll have to check out her feminist art rock band, Vag Halen.

Adam Kenneth Wilson seemed to grow into the role of Slim as the play progressed. It was great to watch him grow into the role, assuming Slim’s persona. Wilson seems determined, with a lot of raw talent. He doesn’t seem like a “dreg of society” so it took him a little while to slither into the role. Once he did, he was brilliant.

Cowboy Mouth seems to be a play that appeals to young women. The audience seemed to be mostly young, progressively-minded females. I suppose that is the Patti Smith element of the play. Mike and I are old, punk rock survivors who never really “got”, or got into, Patti Smith. We always thought she was too clever and celebrated by women because she was a woman. Survivors like Tina Turner always had more appeal to guys like us.

The light projections for Cowboy Mouth were quite impressive and effective. They were psychedelic yet simple. They provided a great backdrop. They also added to the changing moods of Slim and Cavale. The projections made them appear tattooed at times, angry or reticent at others.

Cowboy Mouth is a play that I like more as I digest it. It’s definitely worth checking out.

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