Actor and Governor General’s Award-nominated playwright Salvatore Antonio isn’t afraid of breaking taboos onstage. “I have a pregnant actor onstage. Aviva is five or six months pregnant, and she’ll be masturbating with an electric toothbrush.”
A bold image, but also something of an accident. “She wasn’t pregnant when I cast her,” Antonio laughs. “She called me to say, ‘Hey, you might end up having to recast. I just found out I’m pregnant.’ And I said, ‘Are you willing to be propped up on some pillows and masturbate with an electric toothbrush while wearing face cream?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, totally!’”
Intrigued by the prospect of a baby bump sharing the stage with a DIY vibrator? Go see The Sheets, The . . . , Antonio’s new play, at Harbourfront Centre’s Studio Theatre as a part of the Hatch performance series.
Hatch is known for envelope-pushing work, and this year’s lineup is excitingly queer, with work that includes Pantheon, a theatrical performance by Kids on TV, and Paper Laced with Gold, a new musical directed by Vag Halen musician Stephanie Markowitz.
Antonio’s show chronicles the life of a hotel room and a daisy chain of people who come there to fuck, among other things. Expect to see encounters of all varieties as the adventurous characters of The Sheets, The . . . get it on with whatever man, woman or toothbrush falls in their path.
It sounds a bit like a 21st-century redux of Schnitzler’s classic sexual merry-go-round play La Ronde, but Antonio has a confession to make: “It was on my list for theatre school, but I didn’t actually read it. The smart people who have been in contact with the play have been like, ‘Oh, is this inspired by La Ronde?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, totally.’”
Antonio’s actual inspiration? His own life. “There was a year when I spent a lot of time in hotel rooms because of work,” he explains. “So, I’d think about what the heck had happened in this room, and it would either turn me on or freak me out . . . Thousands of people have been in these rooms. These sheets are not yours. These walls are not yours. And it’s all built to make you think that it is, in dim light. But the fact of the matter is, we’re the nasty businessman who’s trying to convince himself that the prostitute he’s hired? He’s her first of the day.”
The titillating poster promises some serious flesh, and the show doesn’t disappoint. “Everyone is naked in at least one of their scenes. All the way.” But Antonio knows about the caveat theatre-makers usually hear about stage nudity: the second an audience sees genitalia, they stop listening. “There’s one actor who has to enter pulling on his foreskin. And I said to the actor, ‘Just a heads-up – the second you come out foreskin-first, no one is going to be listening. So, save the line. Just hang out there.’”
Nudity aside, The Sheets, The . . . isn’t porn — it’s a serious play about people trying to make a connection. But if people want to buy a ticket just to gawk at the naughty bits, well, that’s okay, too.
“If someone is coming to the show to see naked people – to see vaginas and penises and nipples – they’re going to get all that,” Antonio says. “It’s all cool with me. You wouldn’t punish someone for weeping in a theatre, and yet you would think of them as dirty or perverted because they have a roll-over in their trousers? Get over it! Just tell your friends to bring a box of Kleenex and a change of underwear.”
The Sheets, The . . .
Sat, April 21, 8pm
235 Queen’s Quay W
Runs until Sat, May 5
For more information, click here.