Mouthpiece and Little Death take the stage at the Theatre Centre in Toronto as part of The RISER Project
I had the pleasure of seeing Mouthpiece and Little Death, two performances from The RISER Project by Why Not Theatre, in one night. The RISER Project is a collective effort to help small and independent theatre productions run their shows without the burden of financial costs. With the help of a $100,000 grant from the Toronto Arts Council’s Open Door Program, The RISER Project can shine the spotlight on some unexpected productions. There are four shows in this year’s line-up: Mouthpiece by Quote Unquote Collective, Little Death by Little Death Collective, Mahmoud by Pandemic Theatre, and Paolozzapedia by Bad New Days Performing Arts.
Mouthpiece is a performance piece starring Amy Nostbakken, Norah Sadava, and a bathtub. Nostbakken and Sadava both play the inner thoughts and expressions of one woman. The show goes through the day of this woman who has just experienced the loss of her mother as well as the loss of her voice. The dialogue jumps from the process of the woman arranging her mother’s funeral, to inside her mind where reality and imagination blend together.
Nostbakken and Sadava astounded me. After watching the show, I realized that two women acting as the inner voice of an individual was an unusual concept. During the show, it didn’t cross my mind. I was too fascinated with their execution to question the concept. Nostbakken and Sadava were sometimes in perfect harmony, while other times in perfect conflict with each other. The effort to become so synchronized must have been intense, but they both managed to make their duality seem effortless. The two of them showed exceptional range: acting, singing, and impressions. The talent in the room was impressive. Also, the bathtub was acceptably stylish.
Little Death is a play by Daniel Karasik about Alex, played by Christopher Stanton, who is overwhelmed with the idea of his own mortality after being diagnosed with an illness. After being told the life-altering news, Alex questions his marriage since Brit, played by Nicole Underhay is the only woman he’s ever had sex with. With Brit’s permission, he is allowed to sleep with other women. She finds that this shift to infidelity is more than she can handle and adds more tension to the marriage.
I liked how the illness is discussed, but never given much detail. I did not know what condition Alex was suffering from, and I thought that was beneficial to the play. I don’t believe Little Death was about sickness itself, but the ways in which people cope with it. Sickness acts as a catalyst for all other things in Alex’s life. His questioning of his mortality did not necessarily change the way he felt about his marriage or his life in general, but it brought all those hidden feelings to the surface.
I found that none of the characters were likable. Most of them were passive aggressive, or down right cruel to their significant others. Even if they weren’t likable, I have to give Daniel Karasik credit for making characters that felt deeply complex. The characters were flawed and nuanced. The relationship issues were dramatic, but rooted in reality. I truly felt I was watching a couple who had been together for the long-haul, recognizing that they were falling apart. It was effectively heart-breaking.
Mouthpiece and Little Death are incredibly different shows. If you are looking for something loud, strange and entertaining, I would recommend Mouthpiece. If you want something more subdued but hard-hitting in a quieter way, then I would recommend Little Death. Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, you could ignore my advice completely and check out one of the other shows by the RISER project. I’m sure they’re definitely worth the gamble.
- All tickets are available through The Theatre Centre box office at www.theatrecentre.org or 416.538.0988. All shows are playing at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen St. West).
- Mouthpiece by Quote Unquote Collective is running until Sunday May 3rd. Performances are from Wednesday to Sunday at 7pm. Tickets are $20 at regular price and $18 for students, seniors, and arts workers.
- Little Death by The Little Death Collective is running until Sunday May 3rd. Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 9pm, with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3pm or 4pm. Tickets range from $15 to $25.
- Mahmoud by Pandemic Theatre will be running from Thursday May 14th until Sunday May 24th. Performances will be at 9pm for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 7pm for Wednesdays and Fridays, and 2pm matinees on Sundays. Tickets range from $18-$22 at regular price. Tickets are $12 for students, seniors, and arts workers.
- Paolozzapedia by Bad New Days Performing Arts will be running from Thursday May 14th until Sunday May 24th. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays performances are at 7pm, Wednesdays and Fridays are at 9pm, and Sundays are at 4pm. Tickets range from $18-$22 at regular price. Tickets are $12 for students, seniors, and arts workers.
Photo of Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava by Brooke Wedlock