Monday, March 26, 2018

Review of New American Folk Theatre's Hot Pink, or Ready to Blow

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Hot Pink, or Ready to Blow. It was by Johnny Drago and it was directed by Derek Van Barham. It was about a group of friends: Cadence (Charlie Irving), Brichelle (Janyce Caraballo), and Tatanya (Brittney Brown). They lived in New Pompeii and it was about that time of year that the virgin sacrifice would be chosen. And it turns out that their virgin sacrifice wasn't such a virgin. So the friends are trying to find a way that they won't be next in line to be sacrificed. I think this is a parody done right. It uses over-the-top comedy to further the story instead of just being exaggerated for the sake of it. It makes valid points about double standards, high-school relationships, and the pressures of the patriarchy and tradition on young people. I think this is a surprising and hilarious show with larger-than-life characters dealing with elevated versions of real problems.

One of the early scenes was also one of my favorite scenes. The three girls were getting up in the morning and talking to their families. They had very different family lives. Tatanya lived with her mother (Anthony Whitaker), who was drunk always and was still mad that she was denied the honor of being the virgin sacrifice when she was a teenager because she was pregnant with Tatanya. They are very different sorts of people. And they have very interesting conversations that may not be completely appropriate. It is not really a parenting situation because Tatanya is more reasonable that her own mother. I thought the timing and delivery in this scene were so perfect and hilarious. Brichelle didn't have parents that were at home. From the clues I got, I think they joined a cult. She was now living with Lenny (Tommy Bullington) her unmotivated, always-eating-cereal brother. He seemed to be like the classic 80s brother who is just there to give you a noogie from time to time. But they actually have kind of a sweet relationship, and he actually loves her and wants to protect her. It is the most sincere male-female relationship in the whole play. (Which isn't saying a lot, but there it is.) Cadence has a seemingly healthy relationship with her father, the Mayor (Josh Kemper), but as the show goes on, you see he is the patriarchal patriarchy man. His priorities are basically money and tradition over everything else. I think tradition can be a good thing, but not when every year you have to kill an 18 year old for it. These scenes let you get a glimpse into the lives of these three girls. I think it is really cool that this show that is basically a spoof gives you actual feelings about the character, even if it is just in very brief scenes.

In the world of New Pompeii women are considered pure if they are virgins, and "huge sluts" if they are not. There is no in-between for them. But you kind of have to be a "huge slut" to save your life. So the options are basically die or get laid once and be called a "huge slut." I feel like men's sexuality is a lot more normalized than women's in the world because having heterosexual sex is basically a rite of passage for men but makes women dishonorable. People don't seem to understand that it doesn't make any sense to shame a woman for doing the same thing as men get praise for. But the play shows you that there is also a lot of pressure on men to conform to these ideas. Chadwick (Kemper) is pretty much a overly sexual jock and obsessed with getting laid by any girl he lays eyes on. He tries to convince them in the dumbest ways possible. He basically harasses them until a teacher comes by to save the day. But the pressure is also on guys because society has told them they have to be overly sexual about everything to prove that they are a man. He is one of the villains of the story, but he also has social pressures to be the man that society thinks he should be.

I think that all the performers were really committed to their characters, no matter how ridiculous they were. This is a very important thing in parody and satire. It takes you out of the comedy and the context if somebody is making fun of their own performance, but that did not happen here. Some of my favorite characters that were not the three lead girls were Bangs (Caitlin Jackson), Bruce (Will Kazda), and the News Reporter (Elise Marie Davis). The reporter at the beginning of the show I thought was hilarious because she took everything she said so seriously and philosophically, like Neil DeGrasse Tyson narrating Cosmos. She would go into this classic newscaster thing, being really chipper and kind of fake, and then go back into philosophical Neil DeGrasse Tyson mode. Bruce was Cadence's boyfriend who didn't actually seem all that romantically interested in her. He was more interested in Chadwick. His sexuality was stereotypical enough to be pretty obvious to everyone who was not his girlfriend. He was dropping hints for Cadence the whole show: talking about his admiration for Chadwick and sashaying every time he left the room. It was fun at the end of the show to see his fabulous fouett├ęs. They seem to be good together as friends, she just doesn't understand how in the friend zone she really is. Bangs I think is the most badass character in this show. She is not shy about anything. Cadence, Tatanya, and Brichelle hate her at first, but then they learn to love her because of the knowledge that she gives them about sexuality. She offers a new perspective about women and sexuality. She is like a sex-positive angel in disguise. The night I saw it, there was a woman in the front row of the audience who seemed to be intoxicated in some way and was talking to people on stage and making extraneous noise. She did this during one of Bangs' scenes, and Jackson handled it as badassedly as Bangs would. So I wanted to give her props for that.

People who would like this show are people who like committed performances, criticizing double standards, and sex-positive angels in disguise. I think people should go see this show. It is really funny and strangely thought-provoking, and I really had a lot of fun watching it.

Photos: Austin D. Oie

1 comment:

Unknown said...

GREAT review,and I concur with you 100%...I saw the play, and, will look forward to seeing any plays these performers are connected to...