VANCOUVER FRINGE 2022: Summer Teeth

publicity photo for Summer TeethPlaywright Bill Marchant’s Summer Teeth is an odd assemblage. It starts with one of the most riveting monologues I’ve heard in ages. The givens are that we’re in a post-plague near-future somewhere along the Pitt River in what seems to be a rural community. At least it was a community. The only survivors are sisters Gin and Esme, and a guy named Harry who scavenges for the three of them. In the opening monologue, Esme mourns the death of Stefanie Norton (Snort), for whom she felt (an unconsummated) love. Marchant’s language is biblical — from a rough Bible. Here’s Esme on men: “Dirty claws and teeth on all of ‘em, Mom said.” And on knowing Snort: “Every part of me is altered, unsettled, never to be the same again.” If you love language, you’ll love this speech. Actor Jess Smith goes a tiny bit over the top sometimes, but she brings such passion to the language, such deep engagement with its imagery that I was smitten with her. Then the play flips into a scene between Gin and Harry. Harry wants to fuck Gin. She says no, but she teases him. With Gin in control, the dynamic is very Miss Julie: lots of repetitive, sadomasochistic push-me-pull-you that bored me. RJ Fetherstonhaugh does a fine job with Harry’s blunt butchness, but Deborah Simons (Gin) seems to be floating above the text, adopting an attitude more than inhabiting the specifics of the images and moments. In the final panel of the triptych, Esme returns for a scene with Gin. It’s great to have Smith’s Esme back onstage and there’s a surprising plot turn, but there isn’t enough accumulation in the piece to make the ending satisfying. Still, I’m a fan of Marchant’s use of words and his willingness to experiment with form.

At the Vancouver Fringe Festival. Remaining performances at the Waterfront Theatre: September 12, 10:30 pm; September 13, 7:00 pm; September 16, 1:00 pm; September 17, 2:45 pm; September 18, 8:20 pm. Tickets


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