nytheatre.com review by Case Aiken
August 14, 2010
There is a kind of poetry to the human body. That's the premise of Namely, Muscles, a one-woman show by choreographer-comedian Claire Porter, in this year's FringeNYC Festival. The show has Porter rattling off poetry inspired by the names of the muscles of the human body, combined with motion and gestures utilizing those muscles. It's an interesting idea, at times educational, with a fair number of chuckle-inducing moments; it is, however, long.
The show opens with the meta-structure of a poetry reading by Porter's character, "Dr. Nickie Nom, Forensic Orthopedic Autopsy Muscular Anatomical Surgical Specialist, for the county," which doesn't really seem to add much to the show, despite it being a funny name. The poetry is varied, some pieces are funny, some educational, with different structures and styles, but I never got a sense of rhythm to the order and some went on just far too long. There are some real winners among them, such as the haiku she opens with, or one piece where she translates the names of several muscles that she had listed to become a poem abut birds perching on bones. Very cool stuff, but even were they all on the upper echelon of quality I still feel the lack of organizational structure hurt the overall show. The show is an hour long, but it felt like more, mainly because there was no order that I could tell. I could feel my attention wane after the first half-hour and it became something of a struggle by the end. This leads me to think that the sweet spot is a little shorter, closer to 45 minutes, with the poetry more obviously laid out to convey the message that Porter wants to express. As it was, it felt more like a series of warm-up exercises for the voice and body.
I ended up really liking the concept of Namely, Muscles, but the execution lacks polish and an editorial eye. This has a lot of potential, but it's not there yet. People who take to poetry or movement pieces will take away more than the general theatre audience, but I can't easily recommend it.