Sex, Cellulite and Large Farm Equipment: One Girls Guide To Living and Dying
nytheatre.com review by Shannon Thomason
August 9, 2008
Sex, Cellulite & Large Farm Equipment: One Girl's Guide to Living & Dying is a smart, funny, one-hour, one-woman show. Something that's not easy to come by. Three words guaranteed to strike terror in my heart are: one-woman show. I want them to be good, but I usually find myself trapped in a space that's a little too intimate being yelled at by someone who talks a lot but doesn't say anything.
River Huston has plenty to say and does so with a delivery that doesn't intimidate or manipulate her audience. And the stories are good. Sitting in the audience, we want to know what's going to happen next. During the course of the show, we visit different moments in the author/performer's life. It is not a linear telling; time shifts around to include the moments she learned she was HIV positive, met her first husband, was arrested for obscenity, was a fitness trainer, became a poet, and many others. It's a lot to keep track of. Some of the transitions are a little off-balance and could include more detail (what was it like being arrested? how did she get to Mexico in the first place?). However, not all the explicit details are left out. There is a section that deals with safe sex and the tools it requires. But the subject isn't there to anger or shock. It simply is what it is. It's part of her story.
Cheryl King's direction gives the show a good pace and strikes a lovely balance between the monologues, re-creations, and poetry. The poems are extensions of the stories and are woven in well. Moments when River's mother appears as she sinks into her hip and puffs an ever-present cigarette are used to great effect without being overdone.
Huston is a storyteller. Like the best of her kind, she lets the story do the work, without trying to force it into becoming something else. She offers up her tales and lets the audience decide what to do with them. In the end, we sympathize with Huston as we laugh with her and get angry with her, but never at her.