BWW Review: Become Empowered at PEEPSHOW
"We believe in the power collaboration, between artists and with the audience" - These words are the mantra of dog & pony dc, and do they deliver. Their latest offering, Peepshow, is the ultimate in audience interaction. Before you enter the theater, or rather the Rehearsal Hall at Woolly Mammoth, you are greeted to a window dresser who is dressing up mannequins in the window.
The woman (Carol Spring) who is performing this mundane task represents us, the audience or society, whose journey we go along with. The evening is a series of vignettes which all have a theme of female empowerment. As part of DC's second Women's Voices Theatre Festival, this multi-sensory piece is an "ode to female genitalia", as described by dog & pony dc.
The first vignette is an apt and topical play on the "Cellblock Tango" from Chicago. Featuring four women (Amelia Hensley, Elaine Yuko Qualter, Sandra Mae Frank, and Natasha Gallop). Ms. Hensley and Ms. Frank, two veterans of Deaf West's brilliant Broadway production of Spring Awakening, are two standouts here (and in the entire evening). These two ladies are the top of their craft in making theatre accessible to everyone. The song, sung by Ms. Qualter and Ms. Gallop accent a perfect opening scene.
The second scene depicts a woman (Ouida Maedel) sitting beachside reading "Wuthering Heights" and sharing desserts with the audience. Ms. Maedel delicately plays this silent scene through precise movement meticulously choreographed. Ms. Maedel also plays a beauty pageant contestant in the final scene alongside cardboard cutouts of Lady Liberty, Moana, Aunt Jemima, and Betty Boop.
The largest and most enthralling scene was the Feminist Fight Club depicted in the climax of the evening. Featuring Ms. Hensley as a Hillary Clinton-inspired ring leader (complete with a pant suit) sets up a fight with a "Founding Father" (Kerry McGee) against a suffragette (Ms. Qualter). Once this bout is over, comes a 1950's June Cleaver-type housewife (Tosin Olufolabi) fighting against a typical husband (Ms. McGee). After a brief audience participation fight, the finale brings in Basic Becky (Ms. McGee), Riot Grrrl (Ms. Frank) and Sista Grrrl (Ms. Gallop). The women involved in this scene are put to work showing how woman can (and do) overcome stereotypes, abuses, and fight back. The metaphor for woman fighting to earn their place is unfortunately all too true today and I applaud dog & pony dc for tackling this issue "fist-first".
The show, conceived by Rachel Grossman, Tosin Olufolabi and Ivania Stack is the only show in the Women's Voices Theatre Festival that is completely written, directed, acted, and designed by all women. Directed by Ms. Grossman with Jordana Fraider and Ms. Olufolabi, Peepshow is an evening that makes everyone think why are women still fighting for equality. It is a bravura performance for all involved. Additionally, the piece is brilliantly choreographed by dog & pony dc co-founder, Lorraine Ressegger-Slone, with design elements by Claudia Brownlee (costumes), Annie Wiegand (sets and lights) and Ms. Olufolabi (sound).
This show is such an important piece in today's political climate and is a complete evening of thought-provoking entertainment. As a person who generally does not like the fourth wall crashing down around me, I enjoyed every aspect of the audience interaction. Hopefully dog & pony dc will present more of this and keep their collaboration between the artists and the audience.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission. According to their website: "Recommended for 18yo+. 100% accessible to and enjoyable by hearing and Deaf audience members. Peepshow is an intimate experience, capped at 30 persons per showing.
Peepshow plays through February 25, 2018 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Rehearsal Hall, 641 D Street NW, Washington, DC, 20004.
Box Office: Tickets are available online.
Photo Credits: Sandi Moynihan Multimedia