Exposed: Experiments in Love, Sex, Death & Art
nytheatre.com review by Robin Reed
April 27, 2007
I can't believe I'm about to say this, but last week I think I fell in love with a porn star.
Now I'm not one to go throwing the L-word around like that. And I don't find myself usually so attracted to theater that calls itself "experimental" much these days. But here I am, entirely moved by Exposed: Experiments in Love, Sex, Death & Art.
Partners in life, love, and in this case, performance art, Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens are in the midst of creating this new piece that examines those four weighty topics. It is rough around the edges, rife with technical difficulties (at least on the night I saw it, in previews), line flubs, and pieces of the show that just plain aren't working. With Exposed: Experiments in Love, Sex, Death & Art, they are on the right track, though still working thorough some things.
I walked away from Collective: Unconscious that night with a deep appreciation for what they're doing up there. They are not breaking any new theatrical ground, but it didn't seem like that was exactly their goal; they are more interested in creating a dialogue with their audience about hot-button current issues such as the War in Iraq, same-sex marriage, and the constant war of de-criminalizing the mere thought of sex and seeming "perversions" surrounding nudity and sexuality. To a certain extent, they achieve this: they are inspiring dialogue, understanding, and maybe even a glimmer of peace.
Getting the audience to participate, to talk openly, is no small task. But I think the real challenge would have been if the audience was made up of people who held a broader spectrum of beliefs. The night I saw the show, the only difference of opinion in the audience (well, at least that was vocalized) was on the topic of marriage. A handful of women (and maybe even one guy) were expressing their beliefs against marriage, and one brave, lone gal spoke up admitting basically that she still just plain wanted a wedding.
Aside from talking to the audience, the evening is made up of a series of skits/discussions/slides/films based on Love, Sex, Death and Art. Before the show starts, the Lab Assistants (the very cute and sweet Morty Diamond and Scout Durwood) stroll through the audience with clipboards and ask for a word or two on each of the topics. These are read as topic shifts throughout the show—it was interesting to hear the first thing that came to mind from different people in the audience.
Then, the audience is asked if anyone might like to volunteer to be part of a photo series Stephens is working on by bearing a breast for a photo. (This all seems very normal and matter of fact in the moment, but I suppose for those who are blushing just reading this, the show might be overwhelming)
But the real meat of the show comes when we touch on the topic of Death. The lovely duo share an intimate moment while Sprinkle talks about her relationship with her trademark breasts. I won't spill it, but I'm sure you can imagine where it goes from there.
The beauty in the piece is hands down Annie Sprinkle. She glows. She is dressed to the nines and has such a welcoming, warm, and engaging way about her; it's impossible not to be mesmerized by her. Add to that the quirky and doting Elizabeth Stephens, and it becomes less about the theater and more about people. The way they presented some of their material was, again, not breaking any new ground, as is usually the hope in experimental theater. But the clear love and respect they have for each other and their audience make Exposed a treasure not to be missed.