The Soup Show
nytheatre.com review by Heather McAllister
March 11, 2010
Buck naked from start to finish, three gorgeous women dance and sing, pose, preen, and pontificate. In and out of a hot tub/soup pot/medicinal urn, in (but mostly out of) teensy tiny bathrobes, dumping a wide variety of topics and ingredients into the tub, New York Neo-Futurists author/performers Erica Livingston, Cara Francis, and Desiree Burch make a hearty feminist soup in The Soup Show.
The recipe goes like this: Mix one scoop girl talk, plop in a goodly amount of sexy fun, add a pinch of stereotypical smarty "feminist," and you get a soup that I would call Burlesque Bisque.
In The Soup Show, the authors tell us a nude woman is intentionally discombobulating, stripping away our ability to concentrate as she removes her garments. Why then are the authors nude? Are we meant to be confused? To focus on their curves and miss their points? It seems like a test we are doomed to fail. Francis and Livingston are stunning, classic knockouts, and Burch is gorgeous too, with perfect skin, a dazzling smile, and a pageant girl face.
In the opening section, we are given pencils and invited to draw the woman of our choice. It works like the proverbial first five minutes in a nudist camp, removing any fear or discomfort. The women remain fully, nudely nude for the remainder of the show, "forced vulnerability" is how they define the experience, but it seems like they just really, really enjoy being naked.
A water ballet and beauty pageant section at the top of the show is so adorable and hilarious my cheeks hurt from smiling. Dripping sarcasm, yet still doing exactly the things that they're sending up, it starts us down the contradictory road of modern womanhood that this show invites us to examine.
Gathered around a microphone, nipples or labia displayed under magnifying glasses, they read snippets about women, feminism, and our roles in society from a variety of sources. I love this section, but feel like the magnified girl parts is overkill. I want more naked souls, less naked vaginas and breasts.
A heartfelt speech on the struggle to be a good mother was the highlight of the evening for me. Livingston discusses the challenge of raising her stepdaughter to be a good woman, feminist, and person. As a mother myself, I found her struggles as a parent quite compelling, quite touching. The added challenge of catching ingredients tossed into her pink CorningWare dish without spilling seemed an apt metaphor for the skills needed to juggle parenting with the rest of life.
A section on the desexualizing of mothers by Burch also hit home, ending with the women opening their arms, inviting us to nestle our heads in their bosoms, offering up that very desexualized motherliness that they were just declaiming against.
Contradictions. This piece is filled with them. And isn't that what they say about we women? How we're a study in contradiction? That our lips say "no," but our eyes say "yes, yes, yes?" One section in particular, a long "queefing" section, struck me as incongruous. The queefing is comparable to a man demonstrating his penis penmanship by writing with his urine in the snow. And while I appreciate Francis's desire to share her special skill of sucking in and blowing water out of her vagina, it seems to contradict the point that as women we are more than the sum of our body parts—it seems instead like a parlor trick, similar to the teenage Spring Break "dick sucking fest" Francis shares with us in song.
The show closes with a furious, invigorating hot tub war dance, the girls splashing and bouncing their breasts so enthusiastically I worried they might accidentally black their eyes in their passion. In a word, it is awesome.
We need a feminist theatrical perspective, and although many important and pertinent ideas are nearly camouflaged by the nakedness and party tricks, the ideas are laid bare. Mentally, we can dress these women, and although their bodies are distractingly beautiful, their brains are pretty hot too.