BWW Review: Lady Rizo Reports From the Fuzzy Dreamscape of New Motherhood in Her Terrific New Show 'Multiplied' at Joe's Pub
"Baby baby baby
What's it gonna be..."
Alt-cabaret star Lady Rizo (aka Amelia Zirin-Brown) made her way to the stage to join her multi-instrumental accompanist, Yair Evnine. Threading regally through the audience, she held a translucent umbrella over her head, singing (my favorite Prince song) "The Beautiful Ones" to Evnine's cello in a beautifully powerful, dusky-toned voice.
My friend Raquel and I lifted our glasses of sparkling rosé in a celebratory clink. It was July 19, Raquel's birthday. How appropriate! Lady Rizo's terrific new show, Multiplied (continuing at Joe's Pub on July 25 and 26) is a meditation on modern motherhood, specifically what it means for an artist accustomed to the nomadic freedom of a life on tour to settle into life as a new parent.
Lady Rizo invited us into the "dreamscape," the sleep-deprived altered state that has replaced the cocktail-induced buzzes of life before baby. Fighting through the haze to find understanding, Lady Rizo reflected on her own upbringing. Raised in an intentional artistic community in coastal Oregon, she compares the isolation of the nuclear family life with the takes-a-village mindset of her family of origin, and finds the "normal" way potentially lonely and lacking. However, the new intimacy and depths of love found in bonding with her son is exquisite, and more profound that anything she could have previously imagined. Without being pedantic, Rizo illustrates and questions the complexities.
Lady Rizo's voice is a fantastic instrument, worthy of front-woman-in-a-soul-band status. Evnine brought his talents to bear on the cello, guitar and electronic beats. Together, they engaged audience members in a comic take on Kris Kristofferson's country classic "Help Me Make it Through the Night," continuing the riff on the desperate desire for sleep, and through several original songs by both Rizo and Evnine. The singer's huge voice gave her strength away- sleep or no sleep, this woman has power.
Suddenly Rizo slipped offstage and returned with her little one in her arms. She whipped out her "fully functioning titty" and nursed, while singing a tender rendition of My Brightest Diamond's song "I Have Never Loved Someone." As she sang, her baby reached his arm up in the air, his tiny hand outstretched in an iconic gesture invoking both Scarlett O'Hara and a Bob Fosse dancer. When the song was done, Lady Rizo handed little Tennyson off to her assistant, who in turn handed Lady Rizo a cocktail.
I must confess, I was conflicted in this moment; I wasn't sure how I felt about using a baby as a prop at 10:30 PM, giving him the boob, just to pluck him off and send him away... Raquel, my birthday girl companion, shared none of my qualms. Tears of tenderness rolled down her cheeks, as she swooned in their mother/son love-bond.
Multiplied is brave, honest and tender, funny, and radical in its own sleepy way, maintaining a hallucinatory quality throughout. Rizo's patter was loose and giddy, sometimes nonsensical as her mouth struggled to form words. This slack might be taken up as the run continues, or perhaps it is intentional, reflecting the interior world of a new mom. In ending with her original anthem, "Song of Freedom," a rousing delivery out of the gauzy, soulful trip through the dreamscape, I found myself wishing for more songs, less meandering chatting. That being said, Rizo's performance was a thrilling tightrope walk: improvisational, surprising and musically dazzling.
Lady Rizo's Multiplied continues at Joe's Pub on July 25 and 26.