Monday, January 30, 2012

Untitled Feminist Show

Nudity in theater and dance has crossed the line from the shocking to the metaphorical. An actor’s naked body now functions like a soliloquy, a form of language in and of itself, iterative of Hamlet’s “to be or not to be,” that is to say “being” in the phenomenological sense of the word. When the Living Theatre performed Paradise Now and Richard Schechner’s Performance Group presented Dionysius in ’69, blatant sexuality and nudity were political acts, provocations intended to usurp the social order. Young Jean Lee’s Untitled Feminist Show, currently playing at the Baryshnikov bills itself as theater, but besides being stripped of clothes the six performers who make up the cast of the play (Becca Blackwell, World Famous *Bob,* Amelia Ziri-Brown, aka Lady Rizo, Hilary Clark, Katy Pyle and Regina Rocke) are also stripped of language (with a few minor exceptions), plot and even a title. Is Young Jean Lee’s minimalism a reincarnation of Jerzy Grotowski’s “Poor Theater” or merely dance masking as theater? Oddly some of the frenetic primal movements recall Grotowski works of the early 70’s. Untitled Feminist Show does have a didactic edge (it's the kind of production that supports a mass of critical theory despite the sparsity of language) and it’s obviously got a hardun for classic women’s roles. But it doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Narration in the form of mime proliferates and the audience laughs uneasily at blow jobs, nude wrestling, analingus, hair pulling and other stage business, both silly and grotesque, which make up a post-modernist feminist universe in which the female body is stripped and the female psyche deconstructed. 

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