BWW Review: MISEDUCATED: AN ORAL HISTORY OF SEXUAL (MIS)EDUCATION is a blast of titillating and uncomfortable performance art
Flesh Mob is a performance collective which created this interdisciplinary dance-theater work about sexual education. From their website: "sex is funny, stupid, gross, elevated and base, and we'll never stop being titillated or uncomfortable about it." MISEDUCATED: an oral history of sexual (mis)education is based on interviews they conducted. The performance is a combination of documentary theater, movement, humor, nudity and live music.
The show started awkwardly which, given the subject matter, is likely intentional. Co-creator Ben Gorodetsky banters with the audience about youthful experiences learning about sex or misconceptions at the time. With his Russian background, he debunks his own notion that "sex isn't drinking pee out of a condom in a Soviet way." (The story is very funny.) He opens up the floor and asks for audience participation.
Eventually the lights dim and a staged work begins. In multiple scenes, movement akin to modern dance is utilized both to celebrate sexuality and also consider its awkwardness and its variety. A dance with Mr. Gorodetsky and his co-creators Peekaboo Pointe and Hilary Preston begins in unison. Their movements are aligned. As the dance progresses, they go out of synch and then back again. The idea of this choreography seems to be the physical manifestation of one's sexual exploration which morphs and evolves over time.
Chanan Ben Simon composed exceptional original music for MISEDUCATED which elevates the performer's movements. Quotes and story are often layered over the score and electronically repeated. When the lighting was perfect, the audio and visual components really showcased what these artists were trying to accomplish.
There are many serious moments in this piece. A Greek woman recalls her abstinence class which required her to sign a pledge card. Two especially poignant voice-overs dealt with embarrassment suffered from having a period and a young man's trying to pray his gay away. As archaic as this sounds to many, many people, religion's antidote for the "devil's temptation" is "just don't have sex."
Not every minute of this well-conceived blast of creativity was as effectively realized. The idea of sharing quotes from interviews was certainly interesting, even if many felt commonplace and obvious. Being shared from notes while the performers slow tumbled down the stairs was overlong. This part was neither visually as strong as the other sections and the words were too quickly tossed aside.
Early on, when MISEDUCATED begins to probe the unfortunate traps of something so very natural to human beings, a strip tease occurs. In this moment, the giddiness of youthful exploration of the body of the opposite sex is endearingly portrayed. It seemed so very natural and in direct counterpoint to the shame so often hurled at the young.
Flesh Mob attempted "to braid together the threads of absurdity, hilarity, awkwardness, shame and trauma, implicating ourselves, our community and the audience in the process." Mission accomplished. The idea for this piece is clearly provocative and the execution was nicely constructed. Maintaining the best parts while tightening the interview storytelling might make this creative endeavor soar to orgasmic levels of entertaining performance art.