The end of the line in Dublin by night: the poetry of Mark O’Rowe’s Terminus

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

Irish triptych: Three brick gangways, with the sinister look of  autopsy slabs waiting for a body, up against three brick walls that tip forward and loom. Eerie industrial white noise as static in a dark theatre.

In its interlocking trio of monologues, Mark O’Rowe’s Terminus is an antidote to every sentimental thought you’ve ever had about Irish eyes and the way they smile.

The latest from the  Edmonton indie Wild Side Productions, which has introduced us to such fulsomely original contemporary pieces as Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play and Will Eno’s The Realistic Jones, takes us on a wild and fantastical chase through the darkness of a Dublin night. It’s a world where winged demons made of worms make advances and shy men turn out to be psychopaths. 

For each of the unnamed characters it’s a leap into the unknown, a freefall of violent, or erotic, or violently erotic, impulses. It’s a weird mythical vision of an urban over-and-underworld where where winged demons might come to your rescue, or not. Where a shy man might bargain with the devil for the gift of song. Where gangs of lesbians perform gruesome backstreet abortions with broom handles and girls step in front of runaway trucks.

It’s set forth in a muscular sort of profane poetry where  heartbreak and horrifying gruesome comedy collide and blister in internal rhymes, and unexpected images pop out.

The story though is something you’ll have to unravel and re-ravel for yourself. As you’ll find out in Jim Guedo’s resonant production, Terminus happens in rhythmic outbursts as three stories that start in parallel tangle together at the end.

Sometimes you seem to be on a luge that leaves your stomach at the top of the run. Sometimes the storytelling is a slingshot that kicks back and smacks you right between the eyes when you don’t expect it. Speaking of eyes, they may not be smiling on the Emerald Isle conjured by O’Rowe, but the Irish gift of the gab is unimpaired.

A (Christine MacInnis) is a tart-tongued middle-aged ex-teacher who volunteers at a phone-in help centre. On a day she hears a voice she recognizes, she surprises herself by setting forth on an unstoppable quest — by cab, by bus, on foot — to find and save a pregnant girl. Her journey through the Dublin demi-monde is, to remain vague on your behalf, haunted by her past. And it’s fraught with startling encounters and lurid violence. MacInnis gives this fierce party a bleak sense of humour and self-discovery.

B (Morgan Donald) is a lonely Dublin chick, an underachiever in the date department — she “knows the drill: bed alone, and tears” — who just goes out to the pub for some drinks with a couple she knows. 

She gets picked up by a man “with a smile to be filed/ under most attractive I’ve seen for a while” and ends up on a building-site crane with an unparalleled view of “the city’s sullied magnificence. The bizarre is both disgusting and, in B’s acceptance of the erotic, no matter the source, is kind of beautiful. Donald captures B’s surprising lack of surprise with a surprising  aplomb.

The best of all, in its mixture of horror and self-mocking humour, is the monologue that belongs to Ben Stevens’ C, a shy virginal fellow with a bright nervous smile and a penchant for murder. He yearns for romance, and realizes too late that those who make deals with the Devil had better “check out the fine print.” The only momentum, when you’re putting pedal to the metal in a getaway truck to elude your fate, is forward.

The wildly improbable intersection of the three stories is a matter for O’Rowe’s bold swirl of language. And it’s the test as well, for Guedo’s actors. You very nearly believe two of them; the third you follow straight to hell.

REVIEW

Terminus

Theatre: Wild Side Productions

Written by: Mark O’Rowe

Directed by: Jim Guedo

Starring: Christine MacInnis, Morgan Donald, Ben Stevens

Where: Studio Theatre, ATB Financial Arts Barns, 10330 84 Ave.

Running: through April 23

Tickets: 780-409-1910, fringetheatre.ca

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