In the program notes for The Possessions of La Boîte
, director Charmian Creagle says the show “is an homage to an art form—the letter—and the power it possesses.” It’s an assertion that prompts misgivings. With all the hand-wringing about the decline of meaningful correspondence, it’s far too easy to romanticize the postman and to accord the notes that arrive in stamped envelopes an unwarrantably mystical significance. Fortunately, the show skirts both schmaltziness and esoteric hoo-ha. It’s the first effort of the Reformers, a new troupe made up of several members of Defunkt Theatre (Creagle and husband, Sean Doran, helped found that company) and other local performers. In The Possessions
, the Reformers eschew traditional narrative in favor of fragmentation and repetition of language, movement and sound. They crafted the piece out of hundreds of letters Creagle inherited after her mother’s death, drawing all the dialogue from this correspondence. It opens with Adrienne Flagg, in prim gloves and cat-eye glasses, voicing a mother’s letters about flower arrangements, canned food, appetite-killing pills and the importance of reading. As the show unfolds, performers move through roles. Jennifer Elkington plays a girl unable to live up to her mother’s demands. Later, the ensemble portrays schoolkids weathering puppy love and rejection. They pass notes through the audience, giggle over origami fortune-tellers and toss paper airplanes while reciting lines that sting with adolescent anxiety. Punctuated by bits of found video and piercing sound, the show can feel patchy. Where Hand2Mouth’s workshopped projects pulse with frenzied vigor, The Possessions
is more contained, though occasionally sleepy. It might not prompt any rapturous letters home, but I’m not returning it to sender either.
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