REVIEW: Talking Masks, Review by Aurora Stewart de Peña

Talking Masks

Written and Directed by Adam Seelig
Presented by One Little Goat

Featuring: Richard Harte, Jane Miller, Andrew Moodie, and Cathy Murphy
November 13th-28th, 8pm

Tickets 416-915-0201

Last February Norman and I saw Adam Selig’s production of Someone’s Going to Come by the mysterious Norwegian Jon Fosse. It was the best thing that either of us had seen in the city in a long, long time, and the reception afterward was really, really fun (cheese platter). We still talk about it, but as we’ve exhausted all of our superlative adjectives all that’s left is:

Norman: Someone’s Going to Come.

Aurora: I know, I know.

Norman: They really nailed that.

Aurora: They really did.

So we’ve been looking and looking forward to Adam Seelig’s next show with One Little Goat, and finally it came.

Talking Masks is about history’s monumentally troubled sons; Oedipus, Isaac and Ishmael. There are certainly more, and certainly other contemporaries, so I gently wonder why this combination of people was chosen by Seelig. Mostly, I don’t care. Make it about whoever you want, this piece was really interesting.

This production was built by a dream team of collaborators. Seelig himself is unfailingly innovative with text (“…Towards a Poetic Theatre…” is One Little Goat’s motto), so the dialogue, at times not dialogue at all but a rapid fire series of words and sounds with tenuous connections, is front and centre. This abandoning the I-Talk-She-Talks model serves the subject: it’s Oedipus, so we all know what’s going on. The narrative experimentation is welcome, and it allows the mind to walk down fascinating, previously unexplored paths.

Jackie Chau is the set designer, and the most unique, specific, beautiful and intelligent things fall from her brain on to the stage. It is always a pleasure to see what she’ll come up with. Her sets could sit onstage by themselves, there is so much to look at, and the negative space is just as interesting as the positive space.

Christopher Stanton’s sound design is an organized mess of crackles, static and echo. It is fortunate because Selig’s complicated picnic of words and sounds may have risked atonality without the layers laid by the loop pedals and amplifiers.

This work is based on stories so universally known they’ve become part of our language, just the very lightest hints of plot are all that is required. Just a touch of Aeschylus in Francis Bacon. Talking Masks, with all of its unconventional components, might seem incomprehensible to some. I think that’s fine. We don’t need to understand everything we see, and we don’t need to hear from the artist about how we should be interpreting what they’ve given us. It’s not interesting. It defeats the purpose of having a brain. In Seelig’s play, some participation is required on the part of the audience. Innovators like this are exactly what we need in Toronto.

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