"No one ever asked me to take my arm down."
My Arm is the first play Crouch wrote, and it is filled with a sense of playfulness that is difficult to articulate. Told by one performer (Crouch) with the aid of every day objects collected from the audience, and the use of a doll, and a video camera, My Arm follows the story of a young boy whose determination sets the course of his life. Always speaking in the first person, it is the source of some enjoyable humour when the character's described actions or appearance are so clearly at odds with the performer we see in front of us.
Crouch's choice to not "act" but rather "tell" the story renders the piece far more theatrical than it would be were the same story realized through traditional theatrical "embodiment". Yet Crouch tells the story with more intense focus and "liveness" (that much debated concept in Toronto theatres these days) than most other actors I can think of in recent memory.
The play itself raises a multitude of questions about ethics in art. Of course, demanding we ask ourselves what is art versus artifice (or scam?), but also when the characters in the story begin marking art, it demands questions of responsibility and ethics in relationship to a subject. When representing someone in your work without their knowledge, when drawing them or representing their "story" in your work, when offering the subject funds for their representation when it is clear no other choice is feasible, and even further, the ethics of responsibility to a child or loved one. This is all juxtaposed with the careful and specific manner in which Crouch requests objects from the audience to use in the performance, both in his spoken text, and in the program note.
Crouch is a masterful storyteller, managing immense pauses, improvised object theatre, all while keeping the audience utterly captivated while he plays with these ideas and our imaginations.
I have many more thoughts on this piece, and will soon share them.