Thursday, February 21, 2019


presented by THEATREFRONT 


About two thirds of the way through this darkly exhilarating play one of the characters says to the other character "This is not high school!!!" Indeed, Mules is not about high school. It is about the aftermath of high school, replete with all of the psychological trauma that many people find themselves harbouring throughout their lives - trauma based in class privilege (or lack thereof), gender separation that intersects with class identity, among other things. 

What begins as a hilarious predicament in an airport washroom ends as something far removed from any specific setting as it creeps into our hearts and minds, and reveals the frequently terrifying socio-economic situations that can come about due to the lifelong effects of past histories. 

There are are times when the situations may seem implausible and way too far 'out there' for some spectators, as the odd audience member seemed to grimace agonizingly every now and then. But grimace often turned to laughter within  the darkly comic recognition of basic human functions reserved publicly for a washroom. 

But despite the seemingly odd implausible plot moment, the extreme nature of the situation wipes all incredulity away like the swipe of some pristine sanitary tissue, and shows onlookers that these are frequently very 'dirty' and fully possible scenarios that certain disenfranchised subjects may find themselves within all too often. Playwright's Beth Graham and Daniela Vlaskalic have created a brilliant, layered look at how young people frequently move through the profound trials and tribulations that can gain a stranglehold on their futures, becoming victims and victimizers, saviours and betrayers, in one fell swoop.

Anita Majumdar handles the streetwise character of Cindy with great versatility both physically and emotionally, and can never be fully 'sized up' as a true friend or a betraying desperado. Majumdar's acting moves from believable sincerity into mean spirited betrayal with seamless agility. 

Eva Barrie's Crystal matches her sparring partner as she represents a kind of innocence gone 'wrong' - and yet through no fault of her own - as she tries to regain a lost friend from her frequently distorted memories of their supposed high school camaraderie. Her final moments are heartbreaking and require an incredible intensity that Barrie rises to with great finesse. 

Tim Walker's intervening Troy adds a needed and highly effective contrast to the duelling young women as he skilfully portrays a seemingly innocent guy doing his job, yet gradually revealing himself as a man caught in the complex web of a MeToo moment that Troy is not able to fully articulate, becoming a fraught and offensive figure who appears likeable in his early moments as he stumbles into mayhem.
Set Designer Brandon Kleiman's realistic washroom provides the action with a very versatile and effective performance space that director Vikki Anderson utlitlizes to great success as actors perform in stalls, using toilets as pedestals, rising above the malodorous confines of  a cubicle, giving the overall action great physical variety and comic interaction. 

Costumes by Lindsay Forde have an authentic air of young women just beyond early youth, grappling with adolescent memories in casual and semi-formal attire that reflects both class and gender ID. Crystal's beleaguered party dress becomes a surprising bit of prom night nostalgia, while Cindy's jeans and t'shirt effectively define her rough and ready desperado focus with a late in the play move into a jacket that a gutsy, atypical Barbie might have worn to a demolition derby.
At it's heart, Mules appears to be about a desperate attempt to regain an innocence that never fully existed. The comic plight of young people, approaching adulthood, and finding that their lives did not fully evolve beyond the same restrictions that the corridors of education, class, and gender afforded them. They needed a form of guidance that never found them. And when they end up in the 'can' that innocence explodes in tragicomic ways as they search for a new beginning that threatens to flush itself down the toilet at any moment.

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