The great thing about going to see the new production at Hand2Mouth, is that as an audience there is the privilege of watching new theater get made.
Everyone Who Looks Like You is playing now through Nov. 22 at Theater! Theater! Find It
It’s about family. Everyone Who Looks Like You is a clear-eyed, open-hearted tonic to the impending onslaught of gummy holiday fare. Go see this play if you desire a moment of grounding before launching into your own Thanksgiving carnival of relatives.
The seamlessly attuned Hand2Mouth company ensemble treats is subject with casual intimacy. Costumed at times in pajama pants and undershirts, the play unfolds in a kitchen, a bedroom, the TV room. Each room is lightly drawn by moving a few benches, and the addition of a few props (a hanging kitchen rack, a purple quilt) and designed by Brad Steinmetz. The world of the play is also gently woven through a soundscape, and each element accumulates onstage to create a kind of off-handed vulnerability, an aching tenderness that is spot-on for its subject.
Who else but your family do you send so much time with, eating cereal in your underpants?
Family, Everyone Who Looks Like You seems to say, contains multitudes. There is tenderness, there is cruelty, and there are ferocious tantrums—Dad throws a fit, through the actor Jerry Tischleder, who kicks long legs into the air and explodes, “God damn it!”. Actor Faith Helma, does an uncomfortably convincing 5 year old having a complete meltdown.
Now would be a good time to tell you, that Everyone Who Looks Like You is experimental, or non-traditional, theater.
If you want a STORY, a single-plotted narrative, with the satisfying, conclusive smack, this is going to be a frustrating play for you (and I too am a fan of, “when life gets really rough, I watch a lot of Law & Order.”—they sure catch that guy, every time. Phew.).
Hand2Mouth constructs a play about family in a series of discrete sections.
Some are dance—a movement piece that culminates in watching dad get dressed is absolutely hilarious.
Some are songs—near the end of the play the entire ensemble sings Pat Benatar’s “We Belong” which was surprisingly beautiful, perfectly apt, and sweetly affecting.
Some are scenes- “The Day Mom Came Home With a Perm”, “The Time Dad Took Us to Dinner”. I kept wanting more dialogue or information, but the scenes ooerated like fragments of a shared family history—they live in shorthand as a powerful touchstone.
Some are videos—an elegantly effective staging of memories projected against slatted window shades. I loved each of these sections, designed by Luke Norby and used with such assurance by the company. Particularly great was a tightly-wound, highly nervous discussion of sex, with Liz Hayden & Erin Leddy playing the hopelessly awkard parentals; also a poignant reflection on the end of a long marriage, performed by Julie Hammond.
If you’re nervous about “experimental theater” you needn’t be. You’ve got the internet. You’ve seen live music. You have a family. Without being derivative, Everyone Who Looks Like You pulls elements from our modern lives to define what makes theater relevant today, and what makes live performance unique among all our viewing options.
It’s exciting. It’s ambitious. It’s generous. It asks the same of the audience. In our increasingly entertainment-laden lives that’s not a bad thing at all.