When you read that the title of a play is as blatant as Stripper Lesbians you might be led to believe that what you are about to see is nothing more than a show which has women in various states of undress (personally or professionally), making out a lot. However, read further to “Rising Sun Performance Company” and your perspective quickly changes. Sure, the show is sexy, shows a lot of skin, and has no problem exploring the more intimate moments of the relationship, but Rising Sun’s inherent intelligence as an ensemble ensures that your skin is served up with a side of thoughtful, though-provoking drama which explores the title rather than exploits it.
So, who are these stripper lesbians of the title?
First there’s Evan (Amanda Berry). She strips, of course, but identifies herself first and foremost as a woman’s studies major. After all, she wouldn’t even be stripping if she wasn’t writing her senior thesis (cleverly titled “Stripper Lesbians”) as an insider’s exposé on what it’s like to be dating a sex worker.
By her side -at home and at work- is Aisha (Samantha Cooper) who strips because that’s what she’s good at. There’s no ironic twist to her chosen career, no air quotes when she uses the words, no parenthetical or ellipsis or slash after the title, no ”I’m just doing this for now” attitude. Aisha is a stripper’s stripper and she makes no excuses about it. She’s ambitious at that, weighing the option of posing for Playboy because posing means more traffic to the club – and more traffic means the ability to command a higher salary. Evan may be the one going after the fancy education which requires a thesis to obtain, but Aisha is the one getting a graduate degree from the school of hard knocks.
Always popping up between the pair is DJ (Joe Beaudin). He’s not just an ex-boyfriend (and current roommate) of Evan’s but also serves as a type of Greek Chorus of the play. It is DJ’s job to wag a finger, shine a spotlight, underline with a highlighter and repeat for emphasis. Not that he doesn’t have his own subplot; in a show-stopping, scene stealing audition he takes the text from Our Bodies, Ourselves and turns it inside out, invoking the spirit and mannerisms of prostitutes to hilarious effect. In a play which centers on women’s viewpoints and is punctuated with women’s sexuality it is a wonderful moment when Beaudin can have the stage to himself and showcase his own talents without distraction.
Things come to a head when DJ pushes things to a place where, ultimately, they probably would have ended up anway … he just got them there sooner. More Devil that Devil’s Advocate he nonetheless ultmately feels he’s doing the right thing even if it is for the wrong reason.
A poinant epilogue ends the play, and we are shown that while these two young women were vastely different the feelings between them were real.
Playwright Kate Foster has done a strong job of taking the already difficult moments of a new relationship and placing them in a unique setting. She beautifully highlights that first crack in the ice when passion abates for a moment and two people step back and begin to notice their difference of opinion, their diverging paths and their incongrouous goals.
There are no heroes here, just flawed human beings. Each character has distinct complexities which Director Jeff Woodbridge coaxes out and deftly presents. All three characters exist in a tug-of-war where their discord amounts to another wrinkle in the fabric of their relationships. Each character is learning how to continue on with integrity while maintaining a climate of support for someone they care about.
In the end this story isn’t about stripper lesbians, but rather about two young women who are trying to protect the identities they treasure most dearly while still living up to the person they would like to be in their partner’s eyes. It is the conundrum of weighing what is more important – how you see yourself, or how you want others to see you? And, regardless of how much of your body you expose throughout the day, at the end of it, can you truly say you’re comfortable in your own skin?
~~~Stripper Lesbians Company: Rising Sun Performance Directed by: Jeff Woodbridge Mar 03, 3:30PM $15.00 The Red Room