Prepare yourself for a chock-full of disturbing images that are bound to haunt your mind far beyond the time span of the plays.
Presented by Theatre Asylum and directed by Jennifer H. Capraru, Fornés x 2 is a double bill comprised of two plays written by Maria Irene Fornés at different points in her career: The Successful Life of 3 (1965) and Mud (1983).
The Successful Life of 3 is a vaudeville-inspired play in a Stepford Wives meets Waiting for Godot style. Two male characters, named He (Jamie Robinson) and 3 (Hardee T. Lineham) meet She (Michelle Latimer), a hypersexualized female nurse with a robot-like submissiveness.
Both men, desperate to have She, begin a three-way relationship with her, with He being her husband and 3 “having all the sex.” He and She are inherently unhappy with their home life and undergo constant existential crises, but no matter how many times each of them tries to leave, they are always somehow drawn back home to the same place, hoping to somehow improve their lives, but learning quickly that things are exactly the way they’ve always been. 3, however, ventures off into the world and becomes a successful entrepreneur and a successful thief (in a Zorro costume). No matter how many times he gets himself into trouble, he returns back home with flowers in his hand and a smile on his face.
The play is a satirical critique of marriage and commercialism and scenographer Troy Hourie plays with these concepts, creating a space that is equal parts unlivable and artificial. Metallic from floor to ceiling, with a wall showcasing mirrors and colourful lights, Hourie's set emphasizes the play’s criticism of the American dream and human beings’ constant search for prosperity.
The actors do a phenomenal job at maintaining the overtly absurd and exaggerated behavior of their characters throughout. Accompanied by a spot-on appropriate sound design by Cathy Nosaty, the play feels like a broken record, as it should.
Mud is a horrifying tale of a destitute family living in 1930s Alabama. Mae (Michelle Latimer) is a domestic housewife-figure living with her sick, lazy and unambitious lover Lloyd (Jamie Robinson), who isn’t willing to do much – not even go to the doctor to cure the illness that is rotting his body.
Desperate for more, Mae is going to school to learn arithmetic, teaching herself to read and is falling in love with Henry (Hardee T. Lineham), a man who is seemingly more intelligent than Lloyd (he can say grace and pretend to read medical pamphlets).
Her already difficult life becomes a tragedy when she invites Henry to come live with them. And when Henry falls victim to a tragic accident, we see that Mae is a much harder woman than we initially thought.
All three actors give stand-out performances and had me suppressing my gag reflex for a good portion of the show. This show is contagious and intentionally makes you sick to your stomach. Overflowing with tragedy, it comments on women in higher social positions than men and what happens to a woman who is trying to better herself in a man’s world.
Though set in the past, this is still a reality for many women around the world and the play is successful at being a stark reminder that though we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go.
Fornés x 2 is playing at 213 Augusta Ave. in Kensington Market until June 14. For more information visit www.theatreasylum.com.