• Hand2Mouth Theatre

On Monday night, Hand2Mouth Theatre presented a workshop performance of scenes from their upcoming spin on Gus Van Sant, Time, A Fair Hustler as part of this year's Fertile Ground festival, at a surprisingly* packed Artists Rep. Generated by Hand2Mouth company members in collaboration with writer Andrea Stolowitz, Time revisits Van Sant's 1991 film My Own Private Idaho in a loose narrative that, among other things, compares Van Sant's seedy, early '90s version of Portland with the very different image Portland has now. To this end, the company's been in contact with some of the people who appeared in the original film, and the piece will also address the time period between the end of My Own Private Idaho and present day.

In a post-performance panel discussion, director Jonathan Walters emphasized that Time, A Fair Hustler wouldn't be an attempt to adapt My Own Private Idaho for theater. To the contrary, the project seems more concerned with using some of Van Sant's themes and storylines to create an entirely separate work that deviates freely—and occasionally widely—from its source material. The most obvious of these deviations may be the decision to cast two women in the roles of Mike and Scott. Audience members asked about that choice during the discussion, but to I saw an intrinsic rightness to it. Even setting aside the impossibility of an actor being able to replicate a performance like River Phoenix's turn as Mike, there's also this: In Van Sant's lens, Mike is a character who wears adult masculinity with no small amount of fidgety discomfort, and a palpable vulnerability. In other words, he's performing.

There are other changes: the character of Gary grows up to work the deli at a New Seasons and lease a Prius with his wife. Hans gets a bigger role than in the film, supplying the play's opening monologue. To get the full effect of these changes, it wouldn't be a bad idea to rewatch My Own Private Idaho in advance of seeing the play—which won't premiere until this summer. In the nearer future, Fertile Ground continues this weekend, with a huge array of new work to see.

*Surprising, I mean, for workshop performances, which typically appeal less broadly than fully staged productions. Then again, this is Fertile Ground—most of the shows I've seen at this year's festival have been filled to capacity.