Walking into the theater to see Hand2Mouth’s newest production, Everyone Who Looks Like You, can be unsettling. A former chapel in Milepost 5, an arts collective on Northeast 81st, Hand2Mouth’s latest performance space is somewhat “off.”
Walking into the theater to see Hand2Mouth’s newest production, Everyone Who Looks Like You, can be unsettling.
A former chapel in Milepost 5, an arts collective on Northeast 81st, Hand2Mouth’s latest performance space is somewhat “off.” The floor is slightly sloped. The chairs are cheap plastic. The ceiling is uncomfortably low. Yet it is freshly painted and the stage is full of quirky props infused with the optimism of engaging local theater that one is more likely to find only if they travel off the beaten path of Portland Center Stage.
Everyone Who Looks Like You is a mixture of charades, monologues, projections and a five-part tell-all biography. Its subject: family. What makes family work and what makes it not work.
The story is told through the anecdotes of the five actors, Liz Hayden, Jerry Tischleder, Julie Hammond, Faith Helma and Erin Leddy. Within the first five minutes of the performance the audience can not only see but also feel the closeness between these individuals, the sleepless nights retelling the stories of times past, the nuanced moves and vocals practiced together to make an almost seamless production of people, who outside of the performance, really do consider themselves family. They act as siblings on stage, teasing each other and congratulating each other’s efforts.
The content and dialogue of Everyone Who Looks Like You is definitely reflective. You can’t help but think of your own family when the performers discuss their parents fighting, or pranks pulled by their sister at school (or perhaps that’s just what I remember, because I thought about my family while watching the performance). It seems to hit the heart directly if you are a 20-something on the other side of the country from your family (as most of the actors seem to be) and for one of the first times in your life you’re honestly looking back at the people who helped make up your childhood.
Not only are there genuinely tender moments of self-reflection and disclosure, but there are also humorous anecdotes of the actors’ lives that are replayed through projections and voice modification to give emphasis to the event. Every actor gets a turn, while the others wait hungrily to hear what they have to say, so they can play dress up and reenact the stories they are told. The entire company has an equal talent, an indication of each individual’s devotion to the overall group and project.
While some of the dialogue becomes a little James Lipton (“What is Dad’s favorite curse word?”), and there are a few odd sound choices, the production as a whole is a solid piece of introspective theater.
Everyone Who Looks Like You will tug at the heartstrings and (if you like it) make you want to be with your family. You decide if that is a good thing. The people involved in the production think it’s one of the only things that matter in life.
With its acting talent, resourcefulness, willingness to take challenging projects on the road and its fast-paced creative output, Hand2Mouth is rapidly on its way to being the Portland theater group to watch.