On Thursday, February 7, 2019 Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava, co-founders of the Toronto-based Quote Unquote Collective performed the extraordinarily poignant and humorous MOUTHPIECE at the Royce Hall Rehearsal Room. Directed by Nostbakken, this two-woman theater/movement production is a true tour de force for both actors. Time flew by as the constant vocals, spoken dialogue and intricately choreographed movement/language by Orian Michaeli grabbed us and never let go, even after the stark but appropriate and beautifully timed lights by Designer André du Toit faded to black. This intimate and amazing production was presented by CAP UCLA in association with Why Not Theatre.

It was easy to see why MOUTHPIECE was among the “undisputed hits” of the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The dialogue flowed like water over rocks while moving downhill, and incredibly, much of it was in complete unison; two women speaking with one voice. The set was an all-white plexiglass bathtub and a single standing mike. Depending on which way it faced or how it lay, the tub acted as a tub, a wooden casket, a department store dressing room and a bar restroom. The costumes were gleaming white string strapped leotards, and the two women were bare legged and bare footed. Everything was pared down to the absolute essentials so that the dialogue and movement took precedent.

MOUTHPIECE with Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava - Photo by Joel Clifton

MOUTHPIECE with Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava – Photo by Joel Clifton

Nostbakken and Sadava were one woman and all women. The work followed the preconceived notions, social pressures, and stereotypical images forced upon women from their mothers’ voices and emotions while still inside the womb to the time of their deaths.

What stayed with me for a couple of hours was the vocal orchestration and timing. If there was a mistake, it was not obvious. The movement was an extension of the words, not something placed on top of it. Familiar body gestures, hand gestures and postures became a not-so-subtle but necessary and timely protest. Written description of what was performed with uncanny accuracy feels impossible.

The basic story line is a single writer who returns home after a night at her favorite bar to a telephone message stating that her mother had died. Being a writer, her family and friends place the burden of making all the funeral arrangements, ordering the flowers, selecting a dress for her mother to be interred in, and the writing of the eulogy. We see her procrastinate, have difficulty honestly describing her mother in one single personality, and her own internal dialogue about her personal strengths and weaknesses.

Norah Sadava in MOUTHPIECE - Photo by Joel Clifton

Norah Sadava in MOUTHPIECE – Photo by Joel Clifton

Nostbakken and Sadava take on issues of mother to daughter relationships and how a mother can subconsciously transfer her own concepts of social norms while raising her daughter. They take on the issues of body image, how men speak to and/or treat women and the face that women often present to the world despite how they honestly feel or desire to act. Crude jokes are told. Jokes that men tell in the presence of women with no consideration of how it demeans them. The issue of marriage is raised, and how pressures are put upon women to marry and have children so that they will feel whole or complete.

I said to a friend as we left the theater that every single man, and woman, in this world should see this play. Nostbakken and Sadava put a mirror in front of the audience to allow them to open their eyes and ears, and to actually see and hear truth. MOUTHPIECE is not just a play about a daughter’s love for her mother and the grief she experiences upon her death. It is an investigation and dissection of what it means to exist in the female body and to become a woman.

The designers not previously mentioned were James Bunton, Sound Design and Rebecca Vandevelde, Associate Lighting Design.

Brava to both Nostbakken and Sadava, and kudos to CAP UCLA for bringing MOUTHPIECE to Los Angeles. MOUTHPIECE continues through Sunday, February 10, 2019.

For more information on Quote Unquote Collective, click here.

For information and tickets, click here.

Featured image: MOUTHPIECE with Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava – Photo by Joel Clifton