Talk about dedication to your craft: To prepare a show about the awkward intimacies and allegiances of family life, the members of Hand2Mouth Theatre spent a month in late winter sharing a single A-frame cabin at Caldera Arts, an artists’ retreat 15 miles northwest of Sisters, sleeping shoulder to shoulder on the floor.
The close-quarters strategy is evident in the easy familiarity of the show, a 90-minute bricolage of confessions (“John, I know you’re my brother, but I did take those naked pictures of you and your girlfriend to school. I thought it would make me popular”), memories (a reenactment of parents cautioning their son against “self-abuse”), insults (“you were such a shit. The first word out of your mouth was ‘no,’ and it was downhill from there”) and a song or two.
It’s an agreeable performance, less powerful but certainly more intimate than some of the company’s recent work. The subject matter—the gulf between our memories of parents and their adult lives as well as the universal joys and miseries of childhood—has been mined profitably by just about every novelist since Goethe, but that doesn’t make it any less effective or true. These stories are fun and sweet. Take your siblings.
Hand2Mouth has been the resident theater company at Milepost 5, Montavilla’s artists-only condominium complex, since January, and this production makes use of the former retirement home’s chapel. It’s a terribly inconvenient space for theater, with a low ceiling and raked floor that make blocking and lighting a nightmare, but director Jonathan Walters and his design crew have put it to good use, forcing the audience to get intimate with the actors and hanging vertical blinds that serve as curtains and projection screen. It’s almost enough to make one think the space was intended for performance.
One consequence of performing in the chapel is that Hand2Mouth’s signature wireless microphones, which were useful for previous shows with more music, seem silly. They pop, they’re unwieldy, and they’re unnecessary when the artists are five feet away. Hand2Mouth plans to remount this show for a longer run this fall, and they’d be wise to ditch the amplification for the second round.
SEE: Hand2Mouth Theatre at Milepost 5, 900 NE 81st Ave., 235-5284. 8 pm Thursday-Sunday, May 21-24. $15, $10 Thursday.