Quote Unquote's Mouthpiece, on at The Cultch in a co-presentation with the PuSh Festival through this Sunday, is as formally innovative as it is politically urgent. Co-created and performed by the immensely talented Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava, the piece tells the story of Cassandra (the name is well chosen), who wakes up one morning to learn via voicemail that her mother has died. She has only a day to make all of the funeral arrangements and write a eulogy; however, she has lost her voice. The trick is that Nostbakken and Sadava, clad in matching white swimsuits, both play a version of Cassandra's divided self, using song, unison speech, and movement to ask not just how one woman might find a way to articulate her singular grief but also how she might give voice to a chorus of collective rage.
For in addition to exploring dialectically the paradox of Cassandra mourning her mother's passing while also eschewing her apparently internalized misogyny and generational passivity, Mouthpiece also asks how it can ever be possible for one woman (or even, in this case, two) to become a spokesperson for an entire feminist movement. In light of the recent worldwide Women's Marches, which so powerfully demonstrated solidarity at the same time as they exposed intersectional faultlines, this question feels especially resonant. Fortunately this piece, especially in its a cappella play with harmony and dissonance (including a tour through the female North American popular songbook, from the Andrews Sisters through Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin and Beyonce), suggests that in raising our voices together--just as in arguing internally with ourselves about how and when and in what manner to speak out--there is room for discord. Indeed, it might even make us stronger.