A New Play by Jose Teodoro
May 8 to 17, 2015
Presented at La Cite Francophone
Twilla MacLeod, Luc Tellier, Brian Dooley,
Dave Horak, Andrea Rankin, Chris Schulz, Morgan Smith, and Murray Utas
Directed by Wayne Paquette
Stage Managed by Joan Wyatt
Projection Design by Max Amerongen
Original Music Composition by Jonathan Kawchuk
Costume Design by Megan Koshka mkoshka.com
Lighting Design by Scott Peters
Technical Director Erik Martin
Photographs and Video Teasers by Mat Simpson Photography http://matsimpson.co/
Poster by Tynan Boyd and Joel Crichton
NOMINATED for TWO ELIZABETH STERLING HAYNES AWARDS!!!
Outstanding Lighting Design (Scott Peters)
Outstanding Multi-Media Design (Max Amerongen)
“I’m watching a movie and it is as though I’m seeing some version of my reflection, as though the screen were a looking glass…It’s only a movie… Only a movie…”
A meditation on the desire to disappear, Mote depicts a fleeting yet life-altering friendship between a secretary-turned-fugutive and the desperately lonely proprietor of a forgotten desert motel.
Set in Arizona and California from 1959 onward, this eerie, gripping and hypnotic new work from playwright José Teodoro (author of the Fringe hits The Tourist and Slowly an exchange is taking place) appropriates its characters from Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal film Psycho, forging radical new paths for them, altering aspects of their personalities, accounting for things hidden in their past, broadening their place in history, and ultimately leading them toward utterly new destinies.
Blarney’s production of Mote will give audiences the chance to witness the very first experiments with realizing this thrillingly challenging new text.
The Edmonton Journal – Liz Nicholls
Watching a movie that watches back: It’s a creepy proposition that slides into Mote like a knife into. … Wait.
Let’s just say that in any production where the playwright’s official program thank-yous include nods to Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh, it’s impossible for the suggestion “you might want to take a shower,” tossed off by a lonely motel clerk a long way from anywhere, to be anything but unnerving. That’s the symbiosis between Hitchcock’s 1960 thriller Psycho and Mote, the enigmatically named latest from playwright/ film critic José Teodoro.
It premières in an atmospheric Wayne Paquette production that appears on the entire ground floor of La Cité francophone’s theatre, like a vision at the bottom of a vast black lake. We sit up in the gallery in a single row on three sides, looking down. The playing space, backed by a multi-storeyed screen of flickering murky light, is where the audience usually sits. And since another of Mote’s propositions is that watching a movie is like catching a glimpse of your reflection in a looking glass, it’s an invitation to conjure Psycho and attach memories in every scene. The last time I saw Psycho was at a retro drive-in night: Eek: what was I thinking?
As Fringe audiences of a decade and a half ago know, Teodoro’s work — The Tourist, Slowly an exchange is taking place — has a fondness for unhinging images and moments from a narrative mooring, and letting them wander in a reality that might be a dream. Mote is a little different. It speculates about famous characters attached indelibly to a story we all know very well; it catches a ride on the indelible events at the Bates Motel. And it becomes a kind of inside-out thriller, a fantasia spun from alternative possibilities. In a curious way, this takes the Psycho narrative from the cinema and gives it to the live theatre where Marion, Norman, the detective, and the rest have pasts and futures, the maybes that the movie didn’t provide.
This you know: When she arrives at the Bates Motel, Marion has vanished from her job at a real estate company and absconded fatefully with $40,000 en route to her married boyfriend. The what-if? that Mote offers is the mysterious landscape of human motive. Twilla MacLeod’s lovely performance, which has a seductive and uneasy reserve about it, gives us a character steeped in uncertainty from the start. Hers is a character who speaks forthrightly but at some level wonders about her own behaviour. She gives off the eerie sensation of someone watching herself, as in a suspense movie, but unsure about whether she’s the pursuer or the pursued.
What Marion finds in a pale, nervous motel clerk is someone whose loneliness and love of secrets resonate at the same frequency as her own. The insight of Luc Tellier’s performance as Norman is to discover a kind of haunted innocence and sympathy for a fellow traveller in a famous portrait of psychosis. “I’m nearly invisible,” he says to Marion. “That’s my special skill. … I can help you disappear.” She is receptive. Tellier is scarily poignant, if that isn’t an oxymoron.
The notion of disappearance, the sheer relief of vanishing as one person to reappear in another life as a different person — “I’m driving into a second chance” — is where Mote insinuates itself into the Psycho story. And the other characters are all about reinventing the self, too — all perhaps except the career detective Arbogast (Brian Dooley). He’s spent his “whole life looking for clues” and he clings, against increasing odds, to his assertion that “nobody walks so lightly their steps can’t be retraced.”
Along with Dooley, Morgan Smith as Marion’s conventional sister Lila and Chris Schulz as her louche lover Sam are excellent. Director Paquette and lighting designer Scott Peters have characters appear out of outsized blackness into noirish pools and geometric shapes of light, then disappear back into a kind of void. The stagecraft is expert in creating a moody ambience that’s an allusion in itself. And it’s assisted materially by Jonathan Kawchuk’s suspenseful thudding music and choices in smoky jazz, Megan Koshka’s ‘50s costumes and Max Amerongen’s projections.
Every once in a while you notice the artifice of characters delivering poetic monologues, about the desert or the way the road keeps unspooling. But the script, and the performances, are for the most part expert at making thinking and dreaming aloud seem contiguous to speaking to other characters. It’s a spooky feeling that makes theatre exactly the right choice of medium for reconsidering a movie celebrated for its suspense. It’s clever and absorbing, and leaves a tingle along the back of your neck.
The Edmonton Sun – Colin MacLean
A decade or so ago, Jose Teodoro, a local playwright, turned out a series of eerie, surreal Fringe plays (Slowly An Exchange Is Taking Place/The Tourist). In the midst of Fringe madness, they gave us islands of atmosphere and fantasy.
Teodoro has long since moved to Toronto to become a film and book reviewer but in Blarney theatre’s new production Mote, he has returned and in the interim has lost none of his ability to fashion nuanced worlds of menace and peril.
It won’t take long for movie fans to recognize where the template for his play comes from. Perhaps the names of the two main characters will tip you off — Marion (Twilla MacLeod) and Norman (Luc Tellier). Or maybe the title of the play, which comes from the short circuiting neon sign that advertised the Bates Motel. No, Teodoro has not given us a cheesy rip-off of Psycho but a re-imagining of the relationships as set out by Alfred Hitchcock in his horror classic. Sort of a second film that was going on while Hitch’s masterpiece unspooled on the screen. They are all there — including the spectre of Mother, Abogast the suspicious detective (Brian Dooley) who meets a bad end (not the one in the movie though), Sam (Chris Schulz) Marian’s suspect lover and Lila (Morgan Smith), the worried sister who unleashes the horror.
The creep factor is enhanced by Wayne Paquette’s ingenious staging. He takes the theatre at La Cite and turns it around placing us in a line in the balcony looking down into the blackness below. This allows ace lighting designer Scott Peters to create pools, oblongs, squares and slashes of light in the deep well — while Max Amerongen’s huge rear screen fills with arresting and surreal images of brains being rewired. Characters materialize and then fade away into the darkness. Jonathan Kawchuk’s soundscape is best described by the words of the play as ““deep, red and brutal.”” Megan Koshka’s monochromatic costumes invoke the black and white of the 1960 movie.
We all know that Norman’s shifting identity is shaped by terrible external forces but this production tells us that Norman wasn’t the only damaged character. Most everyone here is trying to disappear. They keep looking at themselves, feeling their bodies, melting into the stark Arizona desert. Only one, however, manages the feat of really disappearing. ““I’m in a movie,”” they tell us. Or, ““I am the movie.”” Or, ““I’m being followed.” Or, ““I am the follower.””
The entire cast of eight is excellent but Telleir’s gangly, twitchy Norman, his hands sunk deeply into his pockets, summons memories of Tony Perkins while adding his own disturbing and neurotic aberrations. MacLeod is captivating and conflicted as Marion. In the Hitchcock mold, she is both sinner and sinned against, innocent yet culpable and the entire play swirls around her riveting performance.
Teodoro gives the story a whole new twist. It’s interesting but I’m not sure if it’s an improvement on the original.
Four out of Five Suns
Behind the Hedge Blog – John Richardson
Spoiler alert: Marion dies in the shower.
José Teodoro’s new play Mote, now playing at La Cité Francophone, is in the workshop stage, so I’m willing to give it a little rope. The first unusual item to notice is the sign reading “Balcony seating only”. The seats have been removed and the floor has become the stage. La Cité’s theatre is an unusually narrow, high space, so this change makes an interesting space even more interesting, but it limits the audience to little more than thirty seated in a single row on three sides of the action — unless the second balcony, partly used for technical tasks, were also opened to audience members willing to risk vertigo. If one is sitting on the side, much of the action will be missed unless one leans far forward over the railing, which is not a terribly severe criticism as the play is mostly words rather than actions.
The set is a minimalist black box with projections and a few pieces of furniture – chairs and tables. The projected material designed by Max Amerongen was something less varied than I had expected coming in – the white centre line flashing past representing driving, a sort of paisley shadow on the floor representing a seaside, the moon representing moonshine. But the projections were quite effective in setting scene, and, particularly in the case of the opening green squigglies, in setting the mood.
I have a suspicion that the make up design is the work of costume designer Megan Koshka, fresh off a stint as assistant costume designer on Catalyst’s Vigilante. Between Nevermore, Vigilante, and now Mote, this make up design is becoming a bit of an Edmonton signature. We need to be careful but the dark shadowed eyes and black lipstick are very effective here, making the characters seem like stark marionettes rather than agents of their own destiny. On Luc Telier, who plays Norman, the make up accentuates his more than passing resemblence to a young Klaus Kinski, notorious for playing Nosferatu. This accentuated resemblance makes Norman just a little more disturbing for audience members with a longer cinematic memory.
The performances were uniformly solid, with the melancholy singing duets of Telier and Twila MacLeod (Marion) a bit of stand-outs. Brian Dooley as Arbogast the flatfoot pursuing Marion had me spellbound during his brief, gentle telephone exchange with his young daughter from whom he’s separated by his work. The rest of the cast provide rock solid support to these leads.
A criticism I will offer is that the pacing is thrown off by Marion’s outfit changing. I realize that Hitchcock took some time with similar scenes in Psycho, but on film he was able to direct our gaze, to the suitcase, to the envelope of money. As we look down on the stage, we’re just looking at a woman changing her clothes. I’m not sure that any symbolism of changing clothes/changing character outweighs the loss in pacing.
The first part of Mote largely follows the course of the opening of Psycho, with one particular film studies student exception. As Marion and her co-worker Caroline (Andrea Rankin) kibbutz about the office, Caroline suddenly notices a fat man on the sidewalk outside the window and goes out to shoo him away. This is, of course, Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo appearance in Mote. In Psycho, Hitchcock is outside the window, but not noticed by the characters. I have a suspicion there’s another Hitchcock cameo in the later scene in the bar between Norman and Sam (Chris Schulz), but I’ve not nailed down what film is referenced.
The second part of the play, after the lady vanishes with Norman’s help, strikes me as also a bit of a film studies student piece, with a frenzy of Hitchcock, film and Hollywood references. For example, Arbogast’s voice over mentions that Norman goes to Hollywood and hangs around on a set with Ava Gardner. Is this a reference to Hitchcock’s Norman, Anthony Perkins’ roll in On the Beach opposite Gardner and Gregory Peck? Norman’s repressed homosexuality is presented without a shadow of a doubt but perhaps with less exploration than would be ideal. I worry that reference may be overshadowing exploration.
In the end, Mote is most interesting and very enthralling and original, but I can’t help thinking it needs tightening. That, of course, is the point of workshopping.
After the House Lights: Jenna Marynowski
Mote asks a lot if ‘what ifs’ about the characters of Psycho. Namely, what if we dropped the conceptions about their deepest personality traits and explored if there could be something more there? Blarney Production’s workshop of Mote plays at La Cité Francophone until May 17.
Mote features the characters from Psycho – Norman (Luc Tellier), Marion (Twilla MacLeod), Sam (Chris Schulz), Lila (Morgan Smith), and Arbogast (Brian Dooley) as well as an ensemble of the other people they meet along their journey – Dave Horak and Murray Utas as suspicious psychologists trying to ensnare their patients, and Andrea Rankin as the over-eager secretary at the real estate firm and a host of diner waitresses.
In an interview with Liz Nicholls, playwright José Teodoro says a big theme of the play is about disappearing and reinventing oneself. And I won’t reveal whether the characters are actually able to accomplish that in Mote, but the show certainly asks the question of whether it’s possible to disappear without a trace. Or disappear and leave someone behind who knows your secret, but will fiercely guard it? To convey to someone how badly you want to disappear in a one-time interaction between strangers and build a relationship that will help you hide your trail?
The Marion Crane of Mote is much more brazen and rash than what we saw in the 1960s film version of her. Twilla MacLeod walks the line between the picture of the composed 1960s lady society expects her to be and the incredible desperation of a woman who feels she has no other option but to completely leave the life she knows behind. Maybe it was the desperation that sometimes took over the character, but I felt the Marion of Mote was a little more modern than a 1960s woman – even a more liberal one – would act.
The other theme that stood out to me in Mote is that we’ve all got darkness and light inside us. Psycho was supposed to be terrifying and in it Norman is presented as a hermit with a dissociative identity disorder that’s led him to become a serial killer. Mote humanizes him by showing another side of Norman – the good parts – while still hinting at the dark parts of him that the audience knows from the film. It allows us to see past the mental illness that essentially dominates our thinking about Psycho and Norman and gives a bit of insight into how that illness may have been developed. Through Mote, we understand Norman as more than a tormented person with several identities living inside of him – we are able to look at him as someone who was abused and repressed, is incredibly lonely, and essentially, through no fault of his own, has had a really tough life. This understanding allows us to reflect on ourselves and ask, ‘What would I be like if I was put into those life circumstances?’
Luc Tellier played the role of Norman really well – his youth and the way he played Norman with a sense of earnestness worked really well to overcome preconceptions that audience members familiar with Psycho may have had about the character, and contributed to the idea that there’s more to anyone than meets the eye.
The staging of the theatre also contributes to this idea of looking at the whole person, and conceptually ties the play to the movie. There is no first level seating in La Cité Francophone, instead all audience members are seated around the railing of the first balcony, looking down onto the main level of the theatre. With the risers folded up, the play takes place on the entire first floor of the theatre. The audience is put into the omnipotent/God role, reinforcing that even though (most) audience members know the dark side of Norman, we’re also able to see where he’s coming from and the good things that he does.
Being above the actors also replicates the physical distance from the characters that you experience when watching a movie or television show. It does also reduce one of the things that’s always appealed to me about theatre, or any live performance, in that you’re in the room with the person who is, in some way, experiencing whatever is being portrayed on stage. This is the thing that has always captivated me about theatre, as opposed to movies or television shows, when you know that they’ve worked for a week to shoot one three minute scene. Or, even if it’s reality television – you’re not in the room with them and it’s automatically made artificial by transmitting it from New Jersey or Hollywood or wherever and being shown to you through a screen, as opposed to the theatre experience of looking a real person in the eyes as they show you their story. But this physical separation works in Mote. The audience doesn’t get as much of that emotional experience – there’s no eye contact with the actors and I found myself hyper-aware of the distance between myself and the actors. For me, it reduced the emotional connection with the characters, but it allowed me to feel even more so that I was getting that neutral, third-party look into a character.
One thing about Mote that was difficult for me was the pacing, despite understanding why the show has been set up this way. To a modern audience, who is used to doing three things at once (admit it, you watch TV while on your laptop and checking your cell phone, don’t you?), the pacing of Mote feels incredibly slow. But it’s the same experience as if you watch Psycho. When my partner and I watched it last weekend, we were both saying, ‘Okay, let’s get to the action!’ – but that slower pacing is how things used to be portrayed on screen – while I was doing post-secondary schooling, one of my professors brought up a commercial from the 1980s and the entire class got restless and bored watching it, and Psycho was released in 1960! While the slower pacing was sometimes a source of frustration for me in watching Mote, it was an interesting way of relating back to the movie and subtly referencing back to the 1960s. However, one area the slower pacing did fall a bit flat was Marion’s on-stage costume changes. While the costume changes reflected the emotional and character changes Marion experiences throughout the show, the changes ended up slowing the momentum of the show without creating a much deeper understanding of the character.
The aesthetics of the show also reflected Mote‘s cinematic roots (recognizing, of course, that the movie was based on Robert Bloch’s novel). The lighting (designed by Scott Peters), projections (Max Amerongen), and costumes (Megan Koshka) were all rooted in that gritty, shadowy, film noir aesthetic and contributed to both the theme of disappearing and of there being both light and dark in each person.
St. Albert Gazette: Anna Borowiecki
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was the mother of all horror movies, the quintessential template for an inexhaustible chain of later horror films.
The shower scene’s graphic violence curled everyone’s toes, sent chills down spines and ultimately scared a generation of women into opting for baths.
Numerous writers have borrowed Hitchcock’s 1960 model and created their own variation mainly by ramping up the in-your-face blood and gore.
But you certainly don’t need a strong stomach to see Mote, playwright José Teodoro’s theatrical variation now playing as a Blarney Production at La Cité Francophone until May 17.
This low budget production is definitely not a bloodcurdler, but more of an intellectual exercise that creates the requisite degree of edge and curiosity.
The audience sits in L’UniThéâtre’s two balconies peering down on the main floor set. Its concrete floor fringed by black curtains on all four sides radiates the feeling of a prison chamber.
Teodoro’s version explores the personal angst of each character. There’s the additional “what if” one incident had happened differently and created an altered domino effect of circumstances.
Norman, the stuttering, shy manager appears to be a nice guy, but he has a few secrets of his own. While nonchalantly eating a sandwich, Norman watches Marion change clothes and he keeps the poisoned corpse of his mother in a back room.
Later, under a starry sky, Norman and Marion share their secrets. She is a fugitive. He is a monstrous murder. Both are imprisoned by their acts. Together they concoct a scheme to make Marion disappear that will give both a measure of freedom. But not everything goes according to plan.
Like Hitchcock’s Psycho, there’s a slow build-up. Unlike Psycho, which is laced with visceral action, Mote takes us straight into the mind of the characters by breaking the fourth wall. It is through a series of monologues and narrations, some quite lengthy, that we hear the characters’ inner thoughts, desires and motivations.
And, like Hitchcock, Teodoro does his share of leg pulling. Consequently, the final scene with its unexpected twist ending tends to feel contrived.
Wayne Paquette reveals his strength as a director in marshalling his cast and keeping up a degree of suspense in a story that is so renowned.
Twilla MacLeod as Marion, a woman running from her past to an uncertain future, brings a dominating, vampy quality to a role that spells intrigue.
Luc Tellier, as the disturbed Norman, plays his part as the sweet guy no one sees as a murderer. But he’s too – well – normal. We rarely see odd character traits that suggest he’s lost his grip on reality.
Chris Schultz is delightful as Sam, Marion’s cigarette smoking, drinking homophobic boyfriend, and Morgan Smith delivers a straight-laced equilibrium as Lila, Marion’s caretaker sister.
One of the play’s most watchable moments is between the swaggering Cassidy (Murray Utas), a millionaire who pays $40,000 cash for a house and the overly eager Richmond (Dave Horak), a real estate broker and Marion’s employer. The two stage veterans have remarkable chemistry and push their characters to the limit.
Ironically, I left Mote wishing there was less Hitchcock and more of Teodoro’s version unravelling slowly bit by bit. Now that could be a chilling contemporary tale.
Vue Weekly – Bruce Cinnamon
“I am watching a movie and being watched by the movie,” says Marion Crane (Twilla MacLeod) in an early scene of Mote.
It’s an appropriate comparison to our audience experience—we’re watching a reinterpretation of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, one of the most famous movies of the 20th century. And the actors are watching us right back.
Or they would be, if not for our vast distance. For whatever reason, Mote has us all sitting up on the theatre’s first balcony, looking down on the actors far below. Coupled with the show’s sluggish pace in its opening scenes (far from Hitchcock’s quick plot and Bernard Herrmann’s shrill, frantic strings) this distance makes it difficult to engage in a story whose plot is already familiar.
The question that every reimagining of a very famous work needs to answer is, what is this retelling contributing to our understanding of the original story? How is it complicating or problematizing what we already know about the characters and their actions? Mote follows Psycho very faithfully for its first 30 minutes. The movie’s quick get-up-and-go is substituted for long monologues from MacLeod. To be fair, some of this text is beautifully written and hauntingly performed. An evocative speech about fleeing to the desert stands out: “Take something to the desert and it disappears forever. Build yourself an island in the desert and nobody can find you.”
But it’s when Crane and Norman Bates (Luc Tellier) come together that the show really gets its legs, drawing out deeper similarities between the pair of them: she felt trapped by her life and ran away. He feels trapped by his but he can’t escape.
Tellier’s creepy little boy performance inspires simultaneous shivers and sympathy. It’s never clear whether he’s the Norman Bates we know and fear, or a parallel-universe version who’s just as much a victim of his circumstances as Marion. Are we watching a romance of two lost souls saving each other? Or the prelude to a famous murder?
As its resolution proves, Mote becomes more interesting when it deviates from its source material.
The Edmonton Journal: Liz Nicholls
Stage directions: “It is dark. Nocturnal animals sound in the distance. Marion is driving her car. Norman is seated in the passenger seat.”
If those names send a little shiver of recognition up and down your spine, you’re on the right track. Mote, José Teodoro’s new play, is indeed spun from the characters of Hitchcock’s iconic 1960 thriller Psycho. “As a teenager,” says the playwright, “I had such an intense sense of identification with Marion. I think I wanted to be her. … Years later I realized I’d made a huge mistake, but at the time I thought ‘of course that’s what she was doing, disappearing!’ That was my fantasy, to disappear and reinvent myself.”
As Edmonton audiences know, that’s exactly the kind of mystery that Teodoro finds irresistible: strange, shifting planes of reality and identity, and characters who seem to vanish into the cracks between them. These days Teodoro is a Toronto-based film (and book) reviewer with his own pseudonym, Josef Braun. Back when we knew him, a decade and a half ago — in such Fringe productions as The Vultures, The Tourist and Slowly, an exchange is taking place — Teodoro was an actor and playwright who’d arrived here, the son of a Spanish immigrant father, from Calgary via Red Deer College, with an appetite for creating eerie, hallucinogenic worlds onstage where time isn’t orderly and things don’t seem to be caused but just happen.
In The Tourist, which hit the Fringe circuit in 2000, an amnesic traveller is wandering in a “once great European city.” Slowly, an exchange is taking place is a murder mystery/ fantasy in which the corpse is elusive and the detective seems to be investigating his own memories. Mote, which Teodoro calls “an extrapolation of Psycho,” co-opts its characters and in a series of scenes sets them in motion, backward and forwards in time, on alternative paths. Where will it go, the friendship between a fugitive secretary and the proprietor of a forgotten desert motel?
Film has always rippled through the Teodoro sensibility. But live theatre, thanks to the Fringe, had a come-hither allure here. At 21, he wrote, produced, and directed The Vultures. “It was difficult to feel I had earned the trust of my collaborators,” he says, with a wry smile. Toronto, for Teodoro, was all about “a rich film culture.” En route he spent time in Mexico City, and co-authored an artbook — a three-metre-long accordion of a book — with Mexican photographer Laura Barron. They moved to Victoria, “because we were stupid. There was no way to be a film critic there; they didn’t even have press screenings.”
His return to theatre, to Mote, and, temporarily, to Edmonton and its can-do theatre scene, has been filled with “my recognition of a different spirit and energy here. I’ve been attacked with waves of nostalgia, wandering around,” says Teodoro, a sometime screenwriter who’s spent time at the Canadian Film Centre and regularly writes essays and reviews for newspapers, film magazines such as Cinema Scope, and program notes for the international film festivals in Toronto and Panama. He’s currently working on a book of “conversations” with the multi-disciplinary Canadian filmmaker Peter Mettler.
For the last two years, “I’ve been trying to act like a professional playwright, navigating that world,” says Teodoro genially of submitting scripts like Mote and his latest, Cloudless, to theatres across the country. “With Cloudless I had the idea first that it would be a movie,” he says. He re-worked it as a play, “ideally cast with five Latino actors.” Letting one medium infiltrate another is, he says, “half the pleasure.” These days, as the mid-size theatres have less zest for the risk of experimental shows, Teodoro says he’s been gravitating to indie productions. “It’s fun! And I have the energy for it!”
One of Teodoro’s warmest memories of producing Slowly, an exchange is taking place happened in the Fringe beer tent. “It was my favourite response ever. A woman came up to me, handed me a beer and said, ‘Would you mind coming to my table? I want to show you something’. It was a weird flow chart of the interconnectivity among the characters (of my play). And it blew my mind!”
“I’m really attracted to work that doesn’t explain everything,” he grins, “that leaves a lot of space for the audience to participate. The art form I cherish most might be music, in the end. … At 24, you feel you want to invent everything. As you get older you realize it can be even more creative and experimental to (use) a pre-existing form. Like an incredibly famous movie!”
VUE Weekly: Paul Blinov
“When I watched Psycho as a teenager, I really intensely identified with Marion Crane,” José Teodoro recalls. “I was seduced by her: kind of in love with her, kind of wanted to be her.”
Yet in spite of that resonance—or maybe because of it—Teodoro realized, years on, that he’d misread Crane’s intentions within the Hitchcock classic.
“I’d always made a fundamental mistake in the trajectory of the story,” he notes. “I always thought that Marion Crane steals the money and is going off to be by herself; to disappear. To start a new life and new identity, everything.”
His new play Mote, seeing a workshop run in town with Blarney Productions, extrapolates from that error. The Toronto-based playwright and film critic—who, full disclosure, contributes reviews to Vue Weekly—used his original read on Psycho as a “what if?” departure point, reappropriating the film’s characters and nascent ideas, but tilting the story away from the psychological thriller it’s known to be—through his alternate lens, it’s something a little more complex, meta and haunted by a desire to disappear.
In reimagining the film’s direction, he wasn’t looking to just recontextualize its iconic moments. The shower scene, the ree! ree! ree! ree! strings, the blood in the drain, don’t crop up in Mote—”That’s exactly the kind of the stuff I was trying to avoid,” he says.
Instead, the production’s eight-strong cast work through an alternate fork in the road, drawing on the era’s budding feminism, Teodoro’s reads on the characters as well as the actors that played them But even as a more radical, revisionist look at the film, Psycho‘s familiarity to most of us made it an ideal departure point.
“It’s so iconic; everybody knows it, even if they’ve never seen it,” Teodoro says. “I liked that idea—I liked that pliability.”
St. Albert Gazette: Anna Borowiecki
Most theatre companies hesitate mounting risky scripts. Bottom line, they need to make money and an unknown quantity is an unpredictable prospect.
However, Blarney Productions specializes in the chancy, and in their second show of the season, the theatre troupe is hosting a workshop production of Mote by Montreal playwright José Teodoro.
Teodoro has borrowed characters from Alfred Hitchcock’s groundbreaking film Psycho taking them in new directions and altering facets of their personalities.
Mote runs from May 6 to May 17 at La Cité Francophone. The dates include two preview shows.
Set in Arizona and California from 1959 onwards, the play begins with Marion, a secretary-turned-fugitive who steals $40,000 from her employer.
During her escape, she takes a wrong turn and ends up at a forgotten, rundown motel in the middle of nowhere. The motel is so dilapidated the letter “l” has fallen off the name.
The proprietor is Norman, a young man whose entire family is dead. While another young man may have pulled up stakes, Norman chooses to stay.
“He’s tied to the past with his family. It’s the only home he knows and he feels it’s his responsibility to keep the motel going. It’s the only life he’s known,” says actor Luc Tellier.
The former St. Albert Children’s Theatre actor has just completed a stellar season employing his skill set in varied shows such as Edmonton Opera’s Barber of Seville, Citadel Theatre’s Arcadia and Maggie Now.
Typically cast as a younger brother or the fresh-faced boy, Tellier is champing at the bit to play a character out of his comfort zone.
“At his (Norman) core, he’s a beautiful nice person, but he’s had a really hard life. He’s been abused and he doesn’t know how to deal with people. His social cues are off.”
Tellier sees similarities between Norman and actor Twilla MacLeod’s Marion.
“She’s very headstrong, knows what she wants, but is not quite sure how to get it. Like Norman she feels trapped. She finds herself driving on a road that leads to the motel where initially she believes will lead to her freedom.”
When asked about the famous shower scene, Tellier skirts the question.
“They start identifying with each other and that’s as much as I can say. It’s not until the end when things tie together do you realize what happened to the characters.”
To create this dysfunctional world, director Wayne Paquette uses a fresh technical approach. The audience is seated in balconies with a bird’s eye view while the play takes place on the ground floor as top down projections create a physical environment.
“We’re trying to turn everything on its head and make something new. It’s not often you build an entire world with projections and soundscapes.”
After the House Lights: Jenna Marynowski
Chances are pretty good that you know Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho. Maybe even the original novel it’s based on, by Robert Bloch. But, even if you don’t, I’m going to bet you’ve seen variations of the shower murder scene or heard Bernard Hermann’s accompanying soundtrack.
Psycho has been re-made for film and as a television series with varying degrees of success, but don’t worry, that’s not what playwright José Teodoro and the rest of Blarney Productions are undertaking.
Instead, Mote – playing at La Cité Francophone May 8 – 17 – is an imagining of what might have been if things were a little different between Marion Crane (played by Twilla McLeod) and Norman Bates (Luc Tellier). Luc Tellier explains, “It’s a take off of Psycho – it takes the characters, specifically Marion and Norman and puts them into a little bit of a different world than we’re used to seeing them in. José kind of puts these new places in their story and they go off in different directions… [He] asks, what would have happened if… ?”
But if you haven’t seen Psycho, or haven’t seen it lately, Luc said that beyond the characters and their initial situation, Mote stands on its own. “Mote does such a good job of really creating it’s own thing. It stands alone and you don’t have to know [Psycho]… There are some scenes that are almost verbatim and it’s very identifiable as Psycho and you’re like, ‘Okay, I know exactly what’s about to happen’ and then it doesn’t.” Luc himself says he wasn’t familiar with Psycho before being involved in Mote, and the differences between his character, Norman, in Mote and Psycho surprised him. “I read [the script] and became really familiar with it and the trajectory of this Norman that I know from Mote and I watched the movie and I was like, ‘Woah! Look at all these different things he’s doing!’. So, it’s kind of like the backwards experience of things, but they both work, which is cool. It’s not like José completely takes it and makes something new, it’s just a different look at it.”
Luc says he’s definitely enjoying playing a different role than he’s previously been cast in (you may have seen him this season in the Citadel’s Arcadia). Beyond tapping in to playing one of cinema’s most troubled characters, Luc says there are a few things about Norman that everyone can relate to, “One thing that the show about which Norman identifies with heavily is that everyone gets lonely. Everyone feels isolated at times. There’s also a level that’s explored more so in Mote than in Psycho in terms of Norman’s homosexuality – it’s kind of looked at a little bit more in Mote. It only makes sense that he was so suppressed and secluded and this takes place in the 60s and so it only makes sense that he has these dark sides to him.”
On the production side of things, Blarney Productions’ team is incorporating cinematic elements into the show. Luc says, “[The script] reads very cinematically… We don’t have a set, we’ve taken out the main seating at La Cité Francophone and so we have the audience up in the balcony looking down on us and we have a top-down projection that creates the set. The company makes up a lot of spacial formations, for lack of a better term. Between the company, the projections, and the soundscape, that creates the world.”
It’s a production that could only really happen at La Cité Francophone, and above everything else, Luc hopes audiences walk away feeling like they’ve had a unique, one-time experience. “There are lots of plays being televised now in movie theatres and you get a really good sense – you feel like you’re there, watching The Met at Cineplex or whatever – but I think this specific show and this style you have to be in the room with us, which is really cool. What I’m hoping is that the audience will walk away thinking they’re glad they got to experience this happening, this event. Because I really think that it can only take place within the walls of La Cité within the world we create and once it’s gone, it disappears. The show is all about disappearing, it’s these characters running away from things and they just kind of find themself suddenly in this new place and running away from it or going back to where they came from. The audience is going to sit down, be thrust into this world and then it too will disappear.”
MEET THE MOTE CAST:
Andrea Rankin is Caroline…young, newly-wed, and often self medicated…
Murray Utas is Cassidy… an imposing, chauvinistic, business minded Cowboy…
Christopher Schulz is Sam… a tall, muscular, former football hero with ambiguous ambitions…
Morgan Smith is Lila… a matronly, assertive, and quick-witted woman with deep desires…
David Horak is Richmond… a confident, pedantic, genuinely fascinated Psycho Analyst…
Brian Dooley is Arbogast… a remarkable, friendly, and shrewd private investigator with many dark secrets…
Luc Tellier is Norman… a shy, sensitive and intelligent young man who runs a motel in the middle of nowhere… waiting…
Twilla MacLeod is Marion… a cool, sexy and controlled woman who harbors a secret desire… to disappear…
Meet the MOTE Design Team and Crew:
(top left:) Joan Wyatt is our Stage Manager, Jonathan Kawchuk is our Musical Composer, Max Amerongen is our Projection Designer
(bottom left:) Megan Koshka is our Costume Designer, Scott Peters is our Lighting Designer, and Wayne Paquette is our Director.
PICTURES FROM REHEARSALS:
Check out these FUN FACTS:
This production is made possible by support from The Toronto Arts Council, The Ontario Arts Council and The Playwrights Theatre Centre.