Natural Novice

Siobhan O'Loughlin is a writer, performer and chameleon whose many-character one-woman show Natural Novice appears in this year's Women At Work Festival. This offering is "feminist" in that it deals with something every woman encounters, whether through herself or others: body hair. Should it be removed? Should it be celebrated? If you're a blonde, is it even visible? How much hair women have on their legs and above is a divisive thing indeed.

The narrator is at a crossroads when she starts her tale. It is November and she is dressed for Fall and in the bed of a man who may not know that she doesn't shave her legs or armpits. She had spent some time on an artists' commune in Vermont, where the men and women were all hairy and liked it. But now back in New York, the old prejudices were coming into play. Many different voices comment on why women should or should not be hairless. There's the child for whom she babysits, who doesn't have hair there and is afraid she might some day. Another woman asks if women shaving equates to pedophilia. A younger friend tells of the sorority sister whose boyfriend paid a last-minute visit which was preceded by emergency waxing and left her with scars. What does it mean to have hairless supermodels staring down at you from Times Square billboards? A lesbian friend would rather be the men in those ads, since the women seem ashamed. Why do even the yoga class women see hair there as dirty? It's a very tense moment when the narrator finally talks to the guy about hair.

This is a charming show with a voice from every corner of New York. Gloria Steinem at one point weighs in on the "hotness factor, while I was surprised to learn how many body hair eliminators there are for men (both front and back hair). There is humor galore, and a variety of emotions which are accented by Zack Branch's cello accompaniment throughout. Director Mario Giacalone deserves praise for moving the non-linear story through so many characters of all ages, sexes and races. I am looking forward to Siobhan O'Louglin's next show.