Is there a message behind Mygale? With its harsh spotlights, spare black walls, and prominent references to rape and Nazism, Nicholas Cantin's creation has a menacingly totalitarian atmosphere. But there are also playful and even childish features: colorful clothing, a big Indian headdress, and one late instant where all the actors stand together and hold hands. Mygale is part dance, part non-narrative theater, yet its main motifs cry out for a unifying interpretation of some sort. Is play or childishness being construed as an unconsciously vicious state? Or is Cantin instead trying to point out the inherent childishness of human nature at its most dictatorial?
In spite of Cantin's use of politically-charged imagery, trying to find an allegory in Mygale is like trying to find an allegory in a painting by Jackson Pollock. There are certain elements-songs and Nazi references for Cantin, bits of glass and junk for Pollock-that have been lifted straight out of everyday life and inserted into a remarkably unified composition. Such a composition is compelling not because of any message or agenda, but because it is both overpoweringly well-wrought and overpoweringly personal. Passionate, without being dogmatic.
All of this might have been a grand, cold, and finally unremarkable intellectual exercise in Cantin's case. But it isn't, thanks in part to the inventive turns of costume, scenery, gesture, and pacing that make Mygale seem so savagely alive. The production music is eclectic, yet consistently spot-on. Low-tech props like tape recorders and microphones are perfect touches-perfectly suited to both playful and bleak moments. And some of the casting choices-particularly the contrast between a lanky, impassioned dancer like Gabrielle Côté and a short, sinewy, and often brutal actor like Peter James-were minor strokes of genius. Mygale isn't designed to win over fans of traditional theater. Yet Mygale is rife with the kind of intelligently selected details-the kind of artistry, really-that even the strictest traditionalist would have good reason to appreciate.