When the six naked women start descending the stairs from the back of the intimate Museum of Contemporary Art performance space through the audience to the stage, they exhale loudly with each slow step.
You will be checking them out.
If you stay for the post-performance discussion you’ll learn they are checking you out too.
The six women who are each performance divas in their own right (Malinda Ray Allen, Becca Blackwell, Desiree Burch, Erin Markey, Katy Pyle and Jennifer Rosenblit) come to us as a naked ensemble accompanied only briefly by pink umbrella props and throughout by an overhead media display that sometimes goes strobe and by music that waxes from classical to electronica.
According to the creator of "The Feminist Show", Young Jean Lee, each woman was chosen in part because her body did not conform to the idealized body images of pornography or dance. Rather, these are six REAL women with REAL bodies. Consider it the artistic and olfactory addenda to the historic work, “Our Bodies Ourselves”.
Years ago it was quite risqué to just say “Vagina Monologues” too loudly, but in this performance from almost the opening dance we are shown genitalia mirroring the kaleidoscopic images above, or vice versa, as if to say “DEAL WITH IT”. The ensemble delights us in poses like the Hindu Gods that are given multiple arm positions to imply they are dancing. At one moment we are reminded of Matisse’s dancing figures, and at the next moment we are drawn into a tale of cannibals dining on nymphets.
If you think the fully clad men in the audience—and about half the audience members were men-- were delighted by the erotica of it all, think again. These were women who with no props whatsoever could give hilarious impersonations of macho strides, the aggression of a soccer match riot, or pantomime suggestions of a WIDE line between pleasure and pain when they considered what to do with male genitalia.
These goddess figures could give Psy a run for his money on how to do the Gangnam Shake enthralling us as they transformed their entwined bodies into abstract masses with parts that shake and jiggle contrasted to harder parts that stay firm. “Oh, these are bodies” you remind yourself—not moving sculptures. And you DO need to remind yourself.
In the post-show discussion with the creator of this piece, OBIE award-winning playwright Young Jean Lee, we learn that the original conception for this was in fact a play with words. Young Jean Lee reports that she gave herself over to the creative process and decided that words—or at least those that added up to verbal communications as we ordinarily think of them—had no place in this piece. Lee confessed that she didn’t even show up for the Tech Rehearsal. The tribe of Divas and their energies is what carries the show.
What struck me was how vulnerable these goddesses seemed when they came back on stage fully clothed. Their chosen outfits, just like ours, said something about their person and personality that we couldn’t see when they were naked and STRONG.
If you do get a chance to see this performance, you might get a sense of how fragile we seem to naked Goddesses with no need for clothes.
Museum of Contemporary Art
220 East Chicago Ave,
Chicago, IL 60611
April 18 - 21, 2013
For reservations—312 397 4010 or www.mcachicago.org