Fans of Her and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind may want to beam over to a series of sci-fi romances being presented by Toronto’s scrappy immersive theatre company, Outside the March.
TomorrowLove ™, written by Rosamund Small and directed and developed by Mitchell Cushman, is staged in a former funeral home in Davisville – transformed into a haunted house full of holodecks – called the Aorta for the next month. This is a high-concept version of one of those shows where the actors memorize many parts and then pick the ones they’ll play out of a hat at curtain time.
In this case, eight actors – top-notch ones like the Stratford Festival’s Cyrus Lane, Soulpepper’s Oyin Oladejo and unaffiliated all-star Mayko Nguyen – dance around in pairs, switching partners, do-si-do, until an audience member gets to play cupid by pressing a big, glowing button.
Love having struck, the actors head off in pairs to a chamber deep in the Aorta to perform a scene – one quarter of the audience following each set of randomly selected lovers. After each scene, you, the audience member, get to choose your own adventure – following one actor or the other off to their next rendezvous.
This review then is only based on four out of a possible 15 two-person plays. And, as both a male and female actor have memorized each part, there are four possible performances of each depending on how the opening dance plays out.
I’m told that this means that there are a total of 472 different possible journeys an audience member might go on – though with TomorrowLove ™ only running until Dec. 18, no one will get a chance to compare and contrast them all.
The shorts I saw each took place in a future in which a technological advance aiming to make romance easier in fact makes it more complicated. In Reeseman, a guy known as Goofy Joey got a face transplant in order to be more successful in life and love. In Tell Me You Hate Me, a woman suspected her partner has had a surgeon install a DontSpeak – a device that keeps him from uttering certain phrases. (Spies I had on other paths encountered Skype sessions with dead lovers and virtual-reality sex apps gone awry.)
I found Small’s sci-fi inventions clever – but the scenes more successful when they were funny rather than heartfelt. (Ditto with the acting – I connected with Anand Rajaram and Amy Keating, in particular.) It’s too hard to care about the fates of couples you only spend 15 minutes with – especially when the gender-neutral concept behind the casting means that Small has had to write all of them with little specificity. Perhaps in the future, men and women will behave interchangeably in straight partnerships – and a gay date will play out the same as a lesbian one, but here it makes for relationships that come across as nebulous.
Cushman has done impressive immersive work before with Vitals, his previous collaboration with Small, and the extraordinary Brantwood, a musical-theatre flash mob that took over an entire school in Oakville.
TomorrowLove ™ seems a step back, in a way – staged in chilly rooms painted white and filled with folding chairs. The site is as non-specific as the writing. If the novelty of trudging up and down stairs between scenes has worn off for you, you might wonder why you’re not immersed in a comfortable theatre seat somewhere for an hour and a half.
TomorrowLove ™ (outsidethemarch.ca) continues to Dec. 18.Report Typo/Error