Writer: Charles Mee
Director: Kim Weild
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
Our Voices Theatre brings the powerful Soot and Spit by Charles Mee to the New Ohio Theatre, and it is nothing short of stunning. The experience is rich and singular. Energy and psychic texture reverberate through the space. Every member of the stellar cast gives a full, vibrant performance.
Against a beautifully designed set by Matthew Imhoff that calls on both artist James Castle’s rural upbringing as well as the layered, tactile nature of his work, performances imprint themselves upon the stage much like the self-made ink of soot and spit Castle used in his work created its permanent mark upon his squirreled away scraps of paper. The use of projections of both Castle’s work and live camera shots of ink setting to paper against the Castle home is electrifying. A subtle yet gorgeous detail of the performance is the use of constant sound, from the “snap” of imaginary beans to live music, a world that Castle himself never experienced. This is beautifully counterbalanced by the use of signing as choreography; the intertwining worlds of auditory and visual communication create a tapestry of visceral engagement. JW Guido brings incredible physical and emotional specificity to the role of James Castle, and the ensemble cast of Karen Ashino-Hara, Robert Ariza, Estelle Bojou, Alida Rose Delaney, John Ford-Dunker, Peregrine Heard, Toussaint Jeanlouis, Geraldine Leer, Chris Lopes, Douglas Waterbury-Tieman, and Arielle Yoder create a living, breathing, dazzling community.
Charles Mee’s work, though linear, is best absorbed as an experience rather than by hanging onto a traditional sense of plot. A newcomer to Mee’s work would be best advised to allow themselves to ride the complex beauty of the piece. Much like Castle’s layers of paper, Mee’s collaging of source materials with evocative music hits in a place beyond spoken (or signed) language. Director Kim Weild guides this play with a masterful hand, while allowing each individual member of the cast and creative team to shine. Soot and Spit is a singular experience that cannot be missed.
Runs until 17 June 2017