Pascale Roger-McKeever strips away all the bells and whistles of theatre and conventional ideas about mothers and sexuality for an amazing, unflinching look at a woman’s life.
The Ins and Outs of Fingers, Spoons, and an Open Marriage is honest, gutsy, funny, painful and ultimately liberating theatre by actor/writer Pascale Roger-McKeever, who left Halifax for life and work in California 10 years ago.
Her 80-minute play, directed by Austin Pendleton, premiered in Pittsburgh and is available for viewing online at different price points now through May 22 via The Ins and Outs of Fingers|Off The Wall Productions|Theater Carnegie (insideoffthwall.com)
The filming is well-done with different camera angles and good zooming so, for a change, this piece of theatre works filmically.
Roger-McKeever delivers a spellbinding performance as she weaves in and out of past and present, quiet and loud, motherly and sexual, sarcastic and ribald, sad and playful.
Her language is explicit. The play starts in the dark with startling language about sexuality especially coming out of a woman’s mouth. (The Vagina Monologues, of course, broke ground on this years ago but still society is not used to women talking honestly about sexual needs and wants.)
The actress calls herself Mom which is in conflict with conventional ideas about mothers and sex but also so familiar to women who, once they are pregnant or mothering or aging, feel they no longer exist as an individual – that invisibility women talk about.
Roger-McKeever’s Mom is in an open marriage as her husband, already in California, suggested. She was never keen on the idea but this is the story of her discovering and embracing her sexuality as she adventures into an affair with her neighbour, a never-married, shy lawyer who is up for sexual game play but perhaps nothing more. Mom, however, grows emotionally attached and reveals her deepest secrets to him.
Roger-McKeever narrates and also plays Mom and the lawyer, often in converations. She is excellent at gently distinguishing the voices and characters and keeping the story alive and moving forward.
While this is a dramatic story with a good ending – something the lawyer demands – it is also a portrait of a woman at 44 who has lived at many different levels and depths.
The lighting is beautiful and tender; the sparing use of sound very effective as a cellist plays a child’s lullaby or the chaos of a conflicted mind. The only prop is a stool that becomes a living room sofa, a bed, a computer screen.
Director Pendleton has done a fine job of nuancing the emotional highs and lows and keeping Roger-McKeever moving in an engaging way. It’s hard to take your eyes off of her even when you cringe at what she’s saying: whether it’s sexual or deeply personal and tragic.
Mom makes the right decision in the end but you’ll have to see it to find out what it is. The short, raw play is surprisingly moving and sticks with you.
How it came to be:
Roger-McKeever began working on this piece, originally part of a longer work of fiction, in 2017. It was first presented as a 40-minute solo at the San Francisco Marsh in 2018 under the title, A Peek at a 21st Century Love Affair. This version won the 2018 March Madness Competition.
She then developed the piece into a full-length play which she performed at SF Marsh again that October. She presented it to her dream director (Pendleton) in a New York City studio in June 2019 and he came on board. After a two year delay because of COVID, Pascale put the show back up on its feet in California, performing it in salon settings, and tweaking the script before flying to Pittsburgh to perform the show at the OFF THE WALL theatre, where this online version was filmed.
Roger-McKeever has worked on both coasts as well as France, England and Canada. As a theatre director, poet, playwright, fiction and screenplay writer, her work is inspired by the chorus’ words in Jean Anouilh’s Antigone, which she references in this play: “The whole world has fallen on you and all you can do about it is shout.”