A Perfect Speciman of Femininity
nytheatre.com review by Amber Gallery
July 24, 2008
Some say that all art is autobiographical to some degree and that an artist must at some point tell his or her own story. In the case of A Perfect Specimen of Femininity, both written by and starring Lisa Dominique, it is very clear from both the delivery and writing that these events were experienced firsthand. Dominique courageously recounts her life at 17 years old, with clear portraits of her three best friends, her dysfunctional and abusive parents, and the boys she encountered, chased, and loved.
Although Dominique's writing is clever and humorous, especially when describing in detail the people in her life, the play feels a little too much like a story told to a close friend and lacks a "performance" quality. Dominique's writing proves that there is a story definitely worth telling here, and there are moments when she absolutely lights up when remembering fun pranks she played on boys with her friends or the process of creating the fake IDs needed to go to the happening night club in her neighborhood in Queens. However there is also some heavy material here about her life at home and Dominique doesn't seem to fully relive these experiences.
Director Matt Hoverman does an excellent job at layering in the elements needed to bring Dominique's story to life. The soundtrack is great, featuring appropriate tunes at just the right moments. The light changes are well-timed and are never overbearing in the small playing space.
Luckily the venue, Stage Left Studios, serves the play better than any other space would in the festival. It is as homey and intimate as can be (there are perhaps 20 seats in the space). It is a perfect setting for a girl-telling-her-story. In a space like this, Hoverman could have done even less with the lights and music and made it work, but the elements were needed to move the story along and I believe he made the right choice and it all balances out.