Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Review of Kinky Boots at Paramount Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Kinky Boots. It was directed by Trent Stork, music directed by Kory Danielson, and choreographed by Isaiah Silvia-Chandley and Michael George. The book is by Harvey Fierstein based on the film written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth. The music and lyrics are by Cyndi Lauper. Kinky Boots follows the intertwining stories of Charlie (Devin DeSantis), a man who has inherited a failing shoe business, and Lola (Michael Wordly) who is an awe-inspiring London drag performer with an infectious spirit (infectious in a good way). They end up starting a business together, as Charlie's last resort, making boots for drag queens, but they end up breaking free of the bonds societal norms put on them. It is about embracing femininity, finding your own path, and white men being let off the hook. I think this is a very well done and empowering show full of stunning queens and vocal acrobatics.

Every scene with Lola was completely breathtaking. Michael Wordly’s performance of this role gave just the right amount of sensitivity, sultriness, and swagger. When you go to see a production of Kinky Boots, of course you are going to look forward to seeing Lola and the performer’s take on the iconic role. What Wordly did very well that I haven’t seen before is that, during the first part of the show, even though Lola is the embodiment of confidence in her performances, there are glimpses of that uncertainty about herself that makes Lola such a complex and lovable character. In “Land of Lola,” the energy in the room was palpable. The audience was in awe of the performance. I also loved the individual presence and personality of each of the Angels (Terrell Armstrong, Anthony Avino, Matthew Bettencourt, Christopher John Kelley, Anthony Sullivan Jr., and J. Tyler Whitmer) Lola’s backup group. Each Angel had their own drag style, and I felt like I got to know each one, No one blended into the background. When she is away from her Angels, Lola’s vulnerability is clearer. It is most evident in “Not My Father’s Son,” which takes place when Lola has come to the factory for the first time out of drag. Even as Simon, Lola still wears her nail polish, but that is not enough of a barrier against the harsh words of some of the less open-minded workers, like Don (Mark Lancaster). This song reached into my heart and pulled it out. Every word that Simon uttered was genuine and emotional. When is in drag as Lola, Wordly likes to punctuate his points with high notes, but in this song everything is more soft and gradual. Almost every note drew out and showed a journey from fear to resentment to resolution.

I love many of the messages in this show, like being true to who you are and opening your mind to others. However, I feel like the level of forgiveness that Lola shows Charlie is slightly concerning due to the hail of offensive insults that Charlie throws upon her just days before the fashion show they have been planning. If Charlie hadn’t gone on for so long pelting Lola with abusive language, I would understand a bit more why Lola chose to forgive him. Because Lola does eventually help Charlie out and forgive him, Kinky Boots is added to the already lengthy list of shows that promote the narrative of white men being forgiven by underrepresented groups. Charlie joins a long line of white male characters who are invincible to taking responsibility for their actions and who avoid consequences they deserve. If Charlie had done any grand gesture, like the more straightforwardly prejudiced Don did, to show that he had changed as a person and was trying to improve, the narrative would have provided a better example of how to change and make amends for your ingrained biases. But, because Charlie is the main character, all he seems to need to do is apologize when really that isn’t enough. Don helps put together a group of people to stay overtime and help make Lola’s vision a reality. Don did something to show that he was changing, which at least shows the path to change instead of the path to immediate forgiveness and gratification. I in no way want to say I didn’t enjoy Devin DeSantis’ performance as Charlie. The flaw is in the script. Charlie has a song called “Soul of a Man” that DeSantis absolutely crushed. His vocal performance paired with his raw emotion made for the perfect power ballad. Lauren (Sarah Reinecke), like Lola, seems perhaps too quick to forgive Charlie so the play can wrap itself up and get to a happy ending. It’s not that I don’t want a happy ending, but I would like it to come as a result of a real, trackable change in Charlie. Reinecke did an absolutely masterful job with this role. She found the perfect balance between the comedy that her character’s song, “The History of Wrong Guys,” contains and relatable and believable moments of self-realization. I think the performers seemed like they would have been able to do even more nuanced work around the issue of transformation and forgiveness if the script had given them space for that.

The ensemble for this show was absolutely amazing. They had an overarching sense of community that carried from scene to scene and character to character. The workers in the factory are all supposed to be like family and each person in the ensemble gave the factory scenes a palpable sense of community and love. Each ensemble member also had a very distinct and lovable personality. Even when characters had flaws, it was hard not to feel love for the character just like the friends of the character did. This effect on me was especially evident in the relationship between Trish (Christina Hall) and Don. They clearly love each other and see the good in each other. Pat’s (Dana Tretta) character was also fully realized and very open-minded from the start. She had a fun-loving personality that made every scene she was in enjoyable. I know that I have seen an amazing and well-cast ensemble when everyone clearly knows who they are on a deep level and brings something to any scene they are in, no matter how large their role in it.

People who would like this show are people who like stellar ensembles, complex drag queens, and shoe-motivated changes in perspective. This is an amazing production to see as your welcome back to in-person theater. I missed the community of theatermakers and theater lovers and the joy that fills the room when they get together. I’m so glad to be back.

Kinky Boots runs through October 17, 2021 at Paramount Theatre

Photos: Liz Lauren

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Review of The Mousetrap at Court Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Mousetrap. It was by Agatha Christie and it was directed by Sean Graney. It was about a group of people who all come to stay at a bed and breakfast in an old manor run by Mollie (Kate Fry) and her husband Giles (Allen Gilmore). Things turn for the worse when a murder investigation begins and the murderer is understood to be in the house. The only thing is, no one knows who it is...except for the murderer. It is about mistrust, fear, and social expectations. I think that this is an amazingly done, farcical mystery. It is very well performed and is absolutely hilarious, but it also has its moments of dread and heart.

I really loved the feeling of this show. Usually I like shows that feel natural and true to life, but I feel like this production had a compelling mix of a heightened situation with grounded relationships and emotion. This balance made me love the characters, but at the same time let the show be funny and over-the-top. I loved how all of the characters were so confrontational and big; everyone was trying to be the center of attention all the time. This also shows the high stakes for the characters: everyone wants something and they will do just about anything to get what they want. There was a guest named Christopher Wren (Alex Goodrich) who had grown to be one of Mollie's favorites because they share an interest in analyzing people. He has an immediate dislike for Mrs. Boyle (Carolyn Ann Hoerdemann) and every time he walks into the room, he has some comment for her. She is another exaggerated character; she is very judgmental about the amenities of the manor and continuously is talking about how much better other hotels are. Mollie and Christopher seem to have a real relationship where they care about each other, despite the fact that he is such an over-the-top person. They bond over their mutual dislike for Mrs. Boyle, and actually grow to have a friendship that feels real and grounded. In a show that is farcical like this one, especially when there are life-or-death situations, I feel it is important to have characters that have relationships that the audience cares about.

Most characters in this play could be considered "odd" in the 1950s. It is as if, following the war, everyone is becoming less filtered. Mrs. Boyle is very headstrong and opinionated and does not submit to authority cheerfully. Mr. Paravicini (David Cerda) is very extravagant and exuberantly bares his knees to the cold and the world. Miss Casewell (Tina Muñoz Pandya) is very comfortable in her surroundings, not trying to be prim or proper. She wears traditionally masculine clothes and is confident in her opinions. Christopher Wren is flirtatious and unabashedly himself, not worried about seeming masculine. There is also a group of characters who seem to be more "normal" than everyone else. Major Metcalf (Lyonel Reneau) is a remnant of the war and still carries himself as he did in the military and is purposeful in everything he does. Giles and Mollie seem to be a lovely, traditional married couple. She seems at first like a traditional housewife, cooking and cleaning, and he does the chores of a handyman. Detective Sergeant Trotter is very focused on finding out who the murderer is and is very professional. But none of these people are as normal as they appear at first. The "odd" characters seem to represent society's anxieties about breaking gender norms and encouraging freedom of expression. But the "normal" characters show that outwardly meeting society's expectations does not mean that things will return to the conservative ideas of the "good old days."

The comedy in this show was so dark and perfectly timed. I also loved how oblivious everyone was, it added to the hilarity when a character was missing something obvious or not realizing how ridiculous the situation was. At the beginning of the show, Giles comes home and his wife picks up his coat, scarf, and hat at the exact moments the voice on the radio is describing the garments of the murderer and they match exactly. Her timing was so amazing which is what made it hilarious. The universal suspiciousness of everyone's behavior was also very funny. Mr. Paravicini was not very helpful when it came to the fears of the other guests about their possible impending murders. He was going around the premises singing and playing three blind mice, which is the song that the murderer has chosen as their theme. During the interrogation, every character is doing something suspicious, but synchronous with everyone else being suspicious, so no one notices. The characters all also frantically and nervously unwrap candies, very noisily, until the detective has to take the candies away. I thought this was very funny because it was a callback to the announcement theaters usually make at the beginning of the show about not unwrapping candies during the show. Here, unwrapping candies is one of the most suspicious things the characters do in the show.

People who would like this show are people who like comedy paired with murder, unfiltered post-war weirdos, and suspicious candy wrappers. I think this is an absolutely hilarious and delightfully twisting show. I loved it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Review of Rivendell Theatre Ensemble's The Tasters

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Tasters. It was by Meghan Brown, and it was directed by Devon de Mayo. It was about a group of women--Bianca (usually Paula Ramirez, Isabel Rivera when I saw it), Corrine (Daniella Pereira), and Elyse (Shariba Rivers) who were enlisted to taste all the food that was going to be later served to great leaders of the world. They are all put into this room together that they are not allowed to leave without supervision. The General (Eric Slater) is in charge of making sure that everything is in order and that the leaders will be safe. Lt. Sawyer (Collin Quinn Rice) is the person who feeds the women, and he tries to help them within the restrictions imposed by his bosses. Corrine is very bubbly and tries to please all of the higher-ups, but things get dire when Elyse, who is a leader of the revolution, shows up as a prisoner. It is about sacrifice, submission, and institutionalized discrimination. I really liked the story, the performances, and the immersive world.

The relationship between The General and Bianca was disconcerting. I feel like this relationship reflects troubling dynamics within society, specifically in the workplace. The General wanted Bianca to feel safe within the relationship, but because of the power dynamic (he is a person who can influence if she is going to live until the next day or not), she cannot really feel safe. In the first scene where we see them interact outside of the cell I noticed how normal The General was trying to make the meeting even though this situation was the least normal it could be. As the meeting continued and got more sexual, Bianca started to feel uncomfortable and once it had gone too far for her, she spoke up. The general tried to say it was okay and work around it so he could still get what he wanted, but she kept shutting him down until he started interrogating and yelling at her. Finally, she gave in out of fear. I thought that this scene exemplified exactly everything that was wrong with the relationship. Because he holds so much power and loves to use it, he brought the dynamic into the relationship to feel powerful. But because Bianca also knows how much safer she is, she doesn't want to lose that, so she does what he wants even if it isn't best for her. The general doesn't know how smart Bianca is and how she knows when she is being manipulated and can use that to her advantage. I also really liked having Lt. Sawyer as a character because he seemed so vulnerable and caring, but as the show progresses he starts to become more violent and unfriendly because he has to follow orders in order to climb the power ladder to safety. Having both of these characters in the story showed the "before and after" of how power changes people in a society run by hungry men.

The friendship that the three women almost accidentally strike up is very intriguing and bittersweet. They are all vastly different people. Elyse is a strong revolutionary, Corrine is a follower of the leaders, and Bianca is a person who knows when to take advantage of a moment and when to submit. When they first meet they all have a reason not to like each other, but as they all start to get tired of the bad treatment and the fear they realize that they have to stick together in order to make a point and help the rest of the world survive. I love the character of Elyse for so many reasons: she is strong, powerful, smart, and so interesting to watch. I really loved the scene between Bianca and Elyse because I feel like it shows a side of Elyse we don't see anywhere else. We get to see Bianca be vulnerable throughout the show because we get to hear her thoughts when she is speaking to her baby bump, but in Bianca and Elyse's scene together we get to see Elyse caring about a person outside her own family for the first time. We know about her kids and we see how much they meant to her which makes this conversation about being a "good mom" even more heart-wrenching. Elyse sees how impossible Bianca's situation is, and she affirms her and helps her to see that she can be as brave as Elyse is. I think that this is what makes a truly fascinating character; when you have someone who has had so much loss and is so powerful in such a profound way like Elyse is, it is very emotional to see her come out from behind the wall that has been keeping her emotions and fear from coming out in order to help someone. It is moving to see her let herself not be stern but to witness her lending what her pain has taught her to others.

People who would like this show are people who like strong female revolutionaries, projecting societal issues into a new storyline, and utopian mom talks. I think that this is a gorgeously written, directed, and performed show. It tells such a profound story in such a heartfelt and real way.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Review of About Face Theatre's The Gulf

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Gulf. It was written by Audrey Cefaly, and it was directed by Megan Carney. It was about Kendra (Kelli Simpkins) and Betty (Deanna Myers), a couple who had gone on a fishing trip together during a difficult part of their relationship. Some unforeseen circumstances arise and the couple starts bringing up old betrayals and arguments. It is about love, trust, and the difference between loving someone and being good for them. I think this is a very beautiful show, performed masterfully.

I thought that the dynamic between the two lovers was very interesting but heartbreaking to watch. They very clearly had a lot of love and attraction towards each other, but they didn't know how to express that in a way that wasn't fueled by passion, not just in the romantic sense but in the sense of anger. They had such tension between them at all times that it was hard to tell at first what it was motivated by. As the play went on you get to see the couple in many different testing situations and really get an understanding of what their go-to diffusing strategy is for the other person. I realized that they are both people who know how to get what they want and are very determined to get it, which causes a lot of quickly heated arguments. This was the main thing that showed me why this relationship was so dysfunctional. Both of these people went all-in with each other and are both forces to be reckoned with, which causes them to do things that completely ignore the other person's wellbeing. When there are two people in a relationship who think that they deserve everything the way they want it, it causes no one to get what they want. In the end this leaves unresolved arguments that seem to never die. I think this is why this boat trip seems to be such an uncontrolled disaster at times; it's because deep down they love each other and rely on each other, but that boat can't hold the weight of their egos which causes every unresolved argument to rise to the surface.

These women love each other very much and this is immensely clear through each of the actor's performances. Their performances also showed all the layers to the relationship that clouded the love. Both of these things were enhanced by the intimacy (directed by Gaby Labotka), which seemed very real and vulnerable in very specific ways. I think that something that this play and these actors attack really effectively is loving someone vs being good for someone. I think that one of the reasons that this play keeps this question lingering in the air for so long is because it leaves the biggest question unanswered and lets other immediately pressing matters guide the characters and the audience away from the thing the couple has been avoiding for years. When the playwright puts the audience in a similar-feeling place as the characters it lets the viewer understand how scary a question that is and how many things an answer could change. I think that what scares the couple the most is not having that constant (their relationship) in their life and if they are unhappy they find ways to make sure they can have their constant and also get what they aren't getting from their partner.

I think that the setting of the boat is a big reason for why this all comes out on this trip. While they are feeling literally trapped, they are coming to terms with being figuratively trapped. This idea of being trapped and scared of what being trapped means is enhanced by the set. The set by Joe Schermoly is very immersive and again puts the audience in the world and feeling of the characters. The set itself is very beautiful, but it is made out of broken things, which I think symbolises the relationship very well. By the end of the play, as the couple is reflecting on the things that made their relationship beautiful and what made them fall for each other, the set starts to have a glow about it (lighting design by Rachel Levy). This made these moments even more moving because I felt like that glow was not literal to their surroundings but was more about Betty and Kendra rediscovering that glow. I don't think that them finding the things they love about each other is going to "save" the relationship, but I think it is a beautiful moment of change that is left unspecified for a reason, and the set just amplifies how beautiful and sad broken things can be.

People who would like this show are people who like immersion, boats bringing out the best and worst in people, and beautiful broken things. I thought that this was an absolutely gorgeous show. The technical elements and emotion were spot on. It had very complex characters that exemplified how people show love in many different ways. I loved it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Review of Once On This Island (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Once On This Island. The book and lyrics were by Lynn Ahrens based on the novel "My Love, My Love" by Rosa Guy. The music was by Stephen Flaherty. The choreographer was Camille A. Brown, the music director was Chris Fenwick, and the director was Michael Arden. It is the story of Ti Moune (Courtnee Carter), a girl orphaned during a storm who is raised by Mama Euralie (Danielle Lee Greaves) and Tonton Julian (Phillip Boykin), an older couple who find her. As a teenager, she rescues Daniel (Tyler Hardwick), a young man who gets in a car crash near her village. She magically heals him and then follows him back to the city where he lives as a member of the ruling class on the island. She stays with him as his lover, but soon discovers that she has not fully understood their relationship. It is about belief, community storytelling, and sacrificial love. This musical has gorgeous performances, fun songs, and a vibrant look.

I don't feel like the songs in this musical are made to be remembered individually. I feel like all the songs together make an intriguing story that is great to listen to. The songs convey the atmosphere so well; they convey the love that is on this island. I hardly ever felt the song was changing to another song; I just was following the story and taking in the music as a vessel for it. A few of the songs that stood out to me the most were "Waiting for Life," "Rain," and "Mama Will Provide." They moved from telling an overall story to being character driven. "Waiting for Life" is one of the best what-I-want songs I've heard. It is so specific to exactly what Ti Moune wants, and I feel like it fits her personality very well. It trampolines her into the rest of her life because all she wants is to get in a car and drive away and feel free and fall in love. But once she starts to fall in love she realizes it is not freedom at all because there are sacrifices she feels obligated to make because of her devotion.

I think the song "Rain" is a lot more character-driven than it may at first appear because it is
the water god Agwe (Jahmaul Bakare) trying to prove his point that love is stronger than death. It isn't about him, which is unusual for a god because when I think of gods I think of entities who think they are better than everyone else. I think it is interesting that this god's first song is motivated by his own gain but is focused on other people as well and how people relate to each other. These gods are very fixated on one person, Ti Moune, and have actually grown to care about her. "Mama Will Provide" shows that very clearly. Asaka (Kyle Ramar Freeman), mother earth, sings to Ti Moune about how she wants her to succeed while the islanders and other gods dance around her. I thought it was a really nice way of showing how the gods, except for death demon Papa Ge (Tamyra Gray), that is, Agwe, Asaka, and Erzulie (Cassondra James) care about Ti Moune and all know their place in the world and the limits of their power and how they work together to make life. Death is shown not only as a cruel ending, but something that can lead to beautiful things like the story. I think Papa Ge realizes that the gods care about Ti Moune and instead of being a demon of death, Papa Ge become more like the gods. Death's importance is not the aspect of cruelty but the aspect of endings bringing new beginnings. Death is an important part of life, and our lives would be very different if it didn't exist. I think it is an interesting way to portray death, showing it in the traditional scary light and then, through character development, showing it as a natural, beautiful part of life.

I really like this musical, but I feel like the message that the story within the musical is telling is disturbing. Ti Moune gives up her entire life for a man and dies waiting for him, even though he has explicitly rejected her. I thought the song "Some Girls" was actually very messed up because Daniel sings about how there are different girls essentially for different services. He is not willing to give up anything for love; love is supposed to serve him. Sacrifice seems to be a requirement for women in love, but not for men. This story romanticizes the idea of not just being in love but being a victim of love. This is a dangerous idea because it shows women that it is okay for them to put themselves last even to the point of their own destruction. I thought that the child actor who played the Little Girl (Mimi Crossland) was very talented and fun to watch as she was told the story, but it made me sad to think of a little girl making the same decisions as Ti Moune and thinking of them as expected of her. It seems like the gods that love Ti Moune are no match for the patriarchy, which is very depressing to think about.

People who would like this show are people who like beautiful storytelling through music, talented performers, and demon character development. I think this is a mesmerizing show. It has so many interesting elements--dance, music, storytelling, costume, and set--that made the island seem magical and real. It made me think a lot and I also enjoyed it. I had a blast and it made me feel more intensely than I expected.

Photos: Joan Marcus

Friday, December 27, 2019

Ada Grey's Favorite Shows of 2019

Chicago theater has had so many amazing stories to tell this year, which is why making this list was so difficult. From an in-depth look into the future and past of the world to a competition to win a truck in Texas, so many stories have showed me new ways to think about theater and had an impact on me. I have great respect for all the shows I saw and the effort that went into them, even if they didn't make this list. Chicago theater has so much to offer and the shows I saw this year made me remember why Chicago is such a special place for theater. Here are my top productions of this year.

Top 7 Plays

Cardboard Piano (TimeLine Theatre Company)

People who would like this show are people who like analyzing religion in a creative way, adorable secret lesbians, and dueling cardboard pianos. I think this show is really beautiful, heartbreaking, and amazingly acted. All the elements in this play were beautifully done. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It moved me a lot and I think it has important insights.

Read the full review here.

Girl in the Red Corner (Broken Nose Theatre)

People who would like this show are people who like literal family conflicts, relatable wrestling, and paint-shade-obsessed mothers. I think this is a really well-done show with great actors. It added something new to the wrestling play genre and it was very enjoyable. I really liked it.

Read the full review here.

Happy Birthday Mars Rover (The Passage Theatre)

People who would like this show are people who like subjecting objects to human emotion, follicles of memory, and love-fueled extinction reports. I think this is a gorgeous show with amazing performers. It made a lot of points that made me think about my own life in ways I hadn't before. It was an absolutely transformative piece of work and I definitely recommend seeing it. I loved it.

Read the full review here.

Kentucky (The Gift Theatre)

People who would like this show are people who like good Kentucky Christians, the fear of becoming your parents, and Cheesecake Factory caskets. I think this is the perfect dark family dramedy. The relationships within the show are amazing, the play is performed wonderfully, and it is written and directed perfectly. I love it so much.

Read the full review here.

Lottery Day (Goodman Theatre)

People who would like this show are people who like complicated heroines, the Marvel Universe of Chicago Theatre, and confidently awkward people. I think this is a really great show. I was so engaged in it the entire time. It has amazing actors, is beautifully written, and has an amazing director. I loved all of it.

Read the full review here.

Red Rex (Steep Theatre)

People who would like this show are people who like holding a mirror up to the Chicago theater community, realistic plays about plays, and making fun of artsy bullcrap. I think this is an amazing show. I loved the concept and it was done so well all around. I loved it.

Read the full review here.

True West (Steppenwolf Theatre Company)

People who would like this show are people who like intriguing backstories, partly hidden comparisons, and an abundance of toasters. I think this is an amazingly done piece of work and I loved it. I'm still thinking of it weeks later.

Read the full review here.

Top 5 Musicals

The Band's Visit (Broadway in Chicago)

People who would like this show are people who like gorgeous performances, memorable movement, and romantic roller rinks. I think people should definitely, definitely go see this show. I think it is a very important show because it shows how people with a history of conflict are more similar than they may think and are capable of true connection. I loved it!

Read the full review here.

Falsettos (Broadway in Chicago)

People who would like this show are people who like important musicals that make you love every character, complex child characters, and brilliantly heartbreaking and frank laments. I absolutely loved this show. It is an amazing story. It is beautifully acted, and this is a gorgeous musical.

Read the full review here.

Hands on a Hardbody (Refuge Theater Project)

People who would like this show are people who like plays that challenge the basic structure of good vs. evil, bridge-burning tension, and Ronald-ettes. I think that people should go see this show. It is very heartfelt and fun, and it has great performances. I really liked it.

Read the full review here.

Head Over Heels (Kokandy Productions)

People who would like this show are people who like queer representation in the foreground, joyful communal musicals, and fabulous dancing sheep. I think this is a very cohesive, funny, and electric show. I really loved it.

Read the full review here.

Six (Chicago Shakespeare Theater)

People who would like this show are people who like empowering queens, Renaissance references, and group brags about female power. I think this is an amazing show. Every single artist in this show is insanely talented. It is very empowering. It is a musical that looks back on the past and shows how the situations these women were in are relevant today. It shows how even if the queens are not here now, women can take back their stories, apply them to their own lives, and re-envision and revise them. It was inspirational, and it was a blast.

Read the full review here.

Photos: Lee Miller, Claire Demos, and Nick Roth

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Review of Red Tape Theatre's Queen of Sock Pairing

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Queen of Sock Pairing. It was by Sophie Weisskoff, and it was directed by Zach Weinberg. It was about Celia (Elena Victoria Feliz), who was at the beginning of her independent adult life as an artist. She is trying to find ways to navigate her love life, her desires, her art, and her purpose. This is made more difficult by her toxic relationship with Cai (Aaron Latterell) and her demanding work environment. She works for an intense mother, Joan (Brenda Scott Wlazlo) who is getting divorced from her slightly sympathetic husband, Jonathan (Scot West). Celia takes care of their intelligent child Walden (West) and gets along well with him. It is about sexual fantasy, dominance, and creating. This was a thought-provoking show with compelling performances.

What I deduced about Celia in this play is that she believes that sex and giving people pleasure is one of her arts. But she has this obstacle where she believes that her job is to be submissive, and her boyfriend reinforces that, making her feel like she doesn't have a choice. Her boyfriend judges her on their sex by how much she submits to him, just like people are judged on their art and told whether or not it is good based on the desires of the viewer. If you consider sex as an art form, it can neglect the needs and wants of the people involved. It makes sex a performance instead of a partnership. Art made only for an external audience, that doesn't take into account the artist's own point of view, isn't fully truthful. I find it interesting that there is a metaphor in this play that connect sex and art. It is not something I really thought of before.

The Narrator (Jalyn Greene) is not just the narrator, they are a character that may be Celia's inner voice. There is a section where the Narrator is repeating words that seem to be going through Celia's head. The words are babka and slut. She is working with language and these words seem to be haunting her. Babka is something she doesn't understand (because she misidentified the sweet bread) and slut is something she thinks about herself. It is two words about insecurities that she has: about not understanding things and about how she could be perceived. The babka and slut are two words that are very repeatable. They have a large impact because of the plosives and the meaning, the plosives are important because she seems to be an artist with words. It seems like the Narrator is a presence that switches between thinking Celia's actions are justifiable and not. The Narrator seems to be less present (or even absent) on stage when Celia is speaking her mind or standing up for herself. When she knows what she is saying or what she wants, she has less internal conflict. Having a narrator character that is a subconscious means you don't know what is just in her head and what is reality. I thought that was an interesting layer to add because it left sections to audience interpretation.

People who would like this show are people who like embodied brains, sexual discovery, and slutty babka. I think that this is a very original and compellingly-done show. I think it had a lot of great things to say.

Photos: Austin D. Oie