exHOTic Other

exHOTic other, Una Aya Osato's contribution to the 2013 FRIGID New York Festival, is an unusual hybrid of burlesque, autobiographical solo show, and performance art. exHOTic other is Osato's burlesque alter ego (she has been a performer with the troupe Brown Girls Burlesque for nearly a decade). Osato slips in and out of this "sexier" identity as easily as exHOTic slips in and out of her clothes. In between routines, Osato confides in her audience, sharing moments from her life story, most of which highlight her growth as a politically aware individual. And even during many of the striptease numbers, her social consciousness is strongly in evidence: how many shows of this type feature an Israeli flag as a costume to comment on the current treatment of Palestinian refugees?

Like I said, it's an unusual show. Osato is a New Yorker by birth, with a Japanese father and a Jewish mother; she talks frankly about her mixed heritage and how it has affected her as she has learned about Israel's policies. (At one point she started talking about friends who participated in Birthright, the initiative that is bringing many young American Jewish men and women to Israel; I wondered if Osato had done such a trip, and if so, what her experience was like.)

Other topics on the bill include the changing face of the city due to gentrification, which is the subject of the most startling segment of the show, "Zompsters/Zombros," in which exHOTic is forced to strip by a gangsta-ish zombie. And the evening culminates in a recounting of a recently ended romantic relationship, which leads to a routine choreographed to Beyonce's "Why Don't You Love Me."

Osato demonstrates intelligence, talent, and a certain amount of fearlessness in the show. I attended the very first performance and while Osato handled the occasional unplanned mishap with aplomb, the piece feels like it could use a bit more rehearsal and a firmer directorial hand (DawN Crandell is credited as director and dramaturge).

Burlesque isn't really my thing, but articulate social/political commentary absolutely is; theatergoers interested in either genre may find some unexpected takeaways from exHOTic other.