Hell in a Handbag / Eyes, Eyes, Eyes
nytheatre.com review by Susan Gordon
July 28, 2006
The show begins before the show begins. Four barefoot girls prowl the room, lights on. The theatre continues to fill, the audience settles down, and Faye Driscoll's Eyes Eyes Eyes is announced. Half an hour later, the frantic and disheveled Dynasty Handbag travels through the circles of Hell wearing a touristically shredded blue "Jamaica" t-shirt and packing an energy bar. An oddly divided night, but there are reasons the pairing works.
Lily Baldwin (who also co-designed the costumes), Toni Melaas, Erin Owen, and Marya Wethers open Eyes Eyes Eyes by invading all corners of the tiny Dixon Place. They sit with audience members, stand in front of Dixon Place's announcer during the customary Capital Welcome, walk behind the bar, open the refrigerator in slow silence, unsmiling and softly menacing. When the lights go off, quiet watching turns into audience distress as four voices scream and cry from the darkness. When the dancers make their way back on stage, it is to dim lighting and fading yells. For the next half hour, they flutter and quiver against the floor, the wall, each other, their relationships and moves powered by aggression, frustration, violence, and despair.
It all congeals into a pop beauty made of sensuality, sexuality, and wit. Eyes Eyes Eyes is a choreographed storm of all kinds of passions. When voices occasionally sound out, they are immediately co-opted, an act that is foretold throughout the performance, which often looks mockingly like the backup girl dancers in a Missy Elliot video and a lot like strip-joint dancers' standards. The music veers in and out of pop song references. "Sometimes," the trembling word that floats in the theatre throughout the performance, in the end takes shape in the most pop way possible. The stage heaves the whole time, bursting with movement.
The next act (titled Hell in a Handbag) fills the stage as well. Dynasty Handbag walks on, and I am reminded of a cat named Titus I once saw, his hair flying in every direction, people laughing while his owner said, bewildered, "why does everyone always laugh?" She is funny from every angle, visual, aural, intellectual. Tiny, she manages anyway to clutter the space around her with outlandish dances, booming PA'd voices from hell, and her own running speeches and mumblings. The circles of Hell are her personal ones, moving from a certain obsessively listened-to CD, to cookies, peanut butter and masturbation, a severe case of the "if onlys," and the ever-present specter of an unintelligible significant other.
At the end of the night, Faye Driscoll and Dynasty Handbag have pleasured you in two very important ways, you've been alarmed and made to laugh. Really laugh.