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November 11th, 2009 BEN WATERHOUSE | Theater
 

Everyone Who Looks Like You (Hand2mouth Theatre)

A rowdy ensemble grows up by going back home.

     
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IMAGE: Kate Sanderson

In my June review of the work-in-progress production of this pastiche of family life by Hand2Mouth Theatre, I advised readers to see the show with their siblings. I take it back. The current version of the work, which the company will tour to New York’s La MaMa E.T.C. in January, is stripped of schmaltz, portraying family just as it is: the people to whom you happen to be related, who made you who you are, who loved you more and caused you more pain than anyone else ever could, and whom you will one day inevitably become.

Everyone Who Looks Like You is the company’s most polished production to date—an odd thing to say about a group whose aesthetic favors rough edges, but true. With the exception of some gratuitous fart jokes, every scene feels deliberate, unconfused by the sense of barely controlled chaos of the company’s other recent work. This isn’t so much a dark take on family as a clear-eyed one—the material is drawn from the memories of the cast and crew and informed by interviews with one another’s parents and siblings. They had normal childhoods, filled with normal joy and pain and confusion, which they spill upon the stage: the time Mom came home with a terrible perm, the time the parents bungled a speech about the ills of masturbation, the time a sibling stormed out of the house and vanished for five years. There are strong recurring visual metaphors (breakfast cereal, sweaters, peanut butter). The show is accompanied by a constant, occasionally ominous score. There’s a good original song by Faith Helma. The nonstop movement is purposeful and poignant (Portland choreographer Mike Barber contributed some moves). The set is a piece of IKEA brutalism that is stark but not menacing.

Courageously, the Hand2Mouth actors have all invited family members to attend this unearthing of things they would never speak about otherwise. Should you do the same, you may find yourself in the midst of involuntary oversharing after the show. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


SEE IT: Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont St., boxofficetickets.com. 8 pm Thursday-Sunday. Closes Nov. 22. $12-$15.
 
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