“Boys play guitars; Girls play ukuleles,” D’yan Forest relates at one point, noting the numerous small string instruments strewn about the stage. D’yan is the narrator and creator of My Pussy Is Purrin’ Again, a one woman show playing at Under St. Marks as part of the Frigid festival, where in she recounts her atypical life and the hurdles she had to overcome along the way as a product of a foreign era. D’yan dealt with discrimination of all kinds while growing up in Boston before making an expatriate of herself and departing for Paris.
A Bi-Sexual Jewish woman who wanted to express herself through music had quite the uphill climb during her youth sixty years ago and all those pieces of cultural resistance are brought to light here. Her musical passions were curtailed by her gender and her heritage, leaving a strange half-acceptance and half-defiance of the social norms that have shaped her. It certainly can be an eye opener. Her collection of ukuleles is vast and impressive and they play into her discussion of identity although truth be told I have never heard that a ukulele was considered particularly gendered. However, I also didn’t realize that there were no less than five completely different types of ukulele (one was a banjo-hybrid!), so what do I know about the cultural history of the ukulele. Clearly, this instrument means something beyond just forced lessons in lieu of an instrument that she would have preferred. Her musical history thus serves as a representation of the greater life that she struggled through.
Beyond the music, sexuality is a heavy component of the show (which should come as no surprise given the title), coupled with themes of honesty versus deception. D’yan (not the name she was born with, shockingly) identifies herself as bi-sexual and goes into great lengths to note here varied romances throughout her years, positing that the majority of the populace chooses to embrace a self-deception of their own identity in order to fit into societal norms. At times those deceptions can be empowering, like when D’yan took to calling herself a minx, but other times they merely are comforting, and never are they honest.
There was a really great line delivery midway in the show where D’yan is holding an open set of old rusted tongs for measuring the size of a person’s skull in determining one’s race and comments on how awful discrimination is before snapping them shut. That was a fantastic moment! It was clear and effective and was sadly unique to the rest of the show. D’yan has a potentially fascinating life story with great issues to address, but the execution gets a bit muddled. Tangential points are brought up left and right. Most of the show comes across as a ramble with a fair bit of interpretation required to make sense of it all.
Weirdly, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the show should have been a cabaret or concert piece. D’yan’s love of music was apparent, but she seemed to transition into it abruptly and her use of instruments outside her signature ukulele all came off a bit more haphazard. Perhaps a more focused approach to tying her musical nature and her life story could help create a more coherent piece. As it stands, My Pussy Is Purrin’ Again comes off as a ramble that has a lot of good things that are hard to see.