She Wolves: Women in Sex, Death and Rebirth
nytheatre.com review by Pete Boisvert
August 19, 2007
The New York International Fringe Festival is primarily a venue for theatrical plays, but its inclusive, big-tent ethos allows for many different styles of performance art. La Lucha Arts Group's She Wolves: Women in Sex, Death & Rebirth is billed as a multimedia theatrical production. Created by writer/performer Raquel Almazán and choreographer/director Dora Arreola, the piece contemplates and challenges traditional female roles throughout world culture, through dance, spoken word, music, and video installation.
As the performance begins, a brief narration explains that female Norse warriors took the form of She Wolves in the afterlife, in preparation for the battle of Ragnarok. Almazán then begins the evening in a ritual ceremony, designed to evoke the feminine spirit. Clad in wolf skins, she performs a highly stylized dance, punctuated with howling. Projected on a screen behind her are crossfading images of wolf and human faces, one bleeding into the other. Throughout this sequence there are periodic bits of narration; unfortunately the echo effects in the sound design rendered much of it unintelligible.
The bulk of the evening consists of a series of monologues or physical pieces, each delineated by a archetypal female character. There's a Housewife who gossips about soap operas and celebrity and runs a phone sex line on the side; a Virgin Stripper, embodied onstage by a life sized sex doll used as a puppet, who delivers a piece on the unwanted attentions of construction workers and the aggression inherent in the word "fuck"; a Celebrity Reporter who must constantly adjust her live broadcast to suit the whims of a disembodied male voice; and a Robotic Activist, who lobbies Congress against the import of robot sex dolls from Caracas, Venezuela. The evening closes with a piece titled "Porno Butoh," featuring a dance piece set against projected images of topless women, sleazy newspaper ads, and bodies in states of disease and decay.
Throughout the evening, video installation art is used to counterpoint the scenes, or to serve as a bridge between them in order to cover the more complicated costume changes. These video pieces, created by Tatiana Sainz, are disjointed collections of images that blend into one another, often set to original dance music. Engagingly hypnotic, these video pieces stood out as high points of the evening.
Many of the ideas and images presented in She Wolves are interesting and engaging. The problem I had with the piece is that each of the archetypal characters comes off a bit too flat or one-note. Almazán and Arreola find a single defining characteristic or trait for each character, and then play that aspect to the hilt. Too often, though, the performance style consists of an exaggerated accent or voice, often in a loud or grating manner. While this certainly makes for aggressive theatre, it lacks subtlety and instead reads as mere obnoxiousness. Ultimately, She Wolves comes off as a sincere piece of political theatre, but not a compelling one.