Terminus is thriller theatre

Monologues and a minimal set evoke thugs, serial killers, car crashes and sheer terror in this Irish play at the Centaur.

Terminus - photo by Sarah Mills-Garvin (640x426)
Adam Kenneth Wilson. Photo by Sarah Mills-Garvin
Meet A, B and C.

The first is a woman, middle-aged, a former teacher. She fields calls from people in distress at a call centre. Today, A (Sarah Dodd) hears from a woman who desperately wants to terminate a pregnancy — just weeks from her birth date.

Later that day, A’s lonely daughter B (Ava Jane Markus) also has a troubling encounter. A bar outing with her best friend and her husband takes a creepy turn when a handsome stranger sidles up to their table.

And then there’s C, a man with a nervous facade and an addiction to lockets, a decongestant confection. But his demeanour is what helps him entrap his victims, for C (Adam Kenneth Wilson) is a serial killer who has struck a bargain with the devil.

Ava Jane Markus
Ava Jane Markus
All three co-exist for this one day in the “sullied magnificence” of Dublin in Terminus, which opened last week at Centaur Theatre. Irish playwright Mark O’Rowe weaves together the story with cycles of interlocking monologues and heavy, Shakespearian-like rhymes. Working without props or a traditional set, our performers have to fill our minds with only their actions and words.

“Description drives me mad,” O’Rowe told the New York Times in 2008, when the show came to the Big Apple. “A man walks into a room, and as soon as he says a line, I have a picture of him already. You don’t need more. That’s my philosophy.”

O’Rowe, whose contemporaries include Martin Mcdonagh, should be pleased, then, by Toronto company Outside the March’s rendition.

Production designer Nick Blais has created an ‘anchor’ in the centre of the elevated stage (built anew at every location, which includes Toronto, Victoria, the Yukon and now Montreal).

Our performers step out onto a narrow platform to talk to us, their small space framed by a web of black rubber bands and shifting lights. Once their chapter is told, they cede their place to the next performer.

I caught the preview performance of Terminus last Wednesday. With the minimalist staging, flowing language and surreal encounters with demons both human and supernatural, you’ll need your focus working at full capacity.

“The audience is doing so much work to meet us in the middle of this imaginary place,” explained Wilson earlier this week. “For that reason, I find it highly intimate. Because each person in their own mind is performing this piece with us.”

You’ll be asked to dream up thuggish women, car crashes, wriggling worms and moments of sheer terror and sweet relief.

“The play is as disturbing as the individual’s imagination is,” says director Mitchell Cushman. “It’s more like the experience of reading a book or a piece of poetry.”

Actress Markus first flagged Terminus to Cushman, who is an acolyte of Irish theatre. Ironically, Cushman is not “the biggest fan” of monologue-based theatre. He likens Terminus to 24 or action movies. “As a director, I’ve tried to make it as active as possible. So that the characters never know anything before the audience does. They’re in it together.”

Terminus’s biggest thrill is in the story and the performance, not the morals or message. ■
Terminus is on at Centaur Theatre (453 St-Francois-Xavier) until Feb. 15. See the schedule here. Tickets cost $27–$49.50. Box office: 514-288-3161.