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Girl's Guide
Presented by Dance Naked Productions

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Reviewed: 2005-07-28 01:04:00
Rated: 4 out of 10 [2 Stars]
By: John Chase (Director@winnipegonstage.com)

"Girl's Guide" from Dance Naked Productions is one show of this year's Fringe Festival that I can only describe as "mediocre". The play was by no means awful, but I left the theatre with the distinct feeling of not really being impressed, and questioning how much I was actually entertained.

The best thing in this one-woman show is undoubtedly the Dominatrix costume that its actress (Eleanor O'Brien) wears for the bulk of the show. Seeing an attractive woman strut around the stage in this garb was a definite visual treat. However that can't form the basis of a theatrical review, and -- though I would certainly classify it as another highlight -- neither can the partial nudity when she briefly removes her top later on. (Which I also mention here as a service to Fringe-goers: the program does not list nudity as a warning.)

While Ms O'Brien gives us a decent and presentable performance, the quality is simply that: decent. She flowed through her motions in a physically competent manner, she put on the right expressions at the right times, and she was well heard and understood. However, with the exception of a couple of scenes toward the end of the show, I thought the performance lacked dimension. Have you ever heard someone at a podium belting out a scripted personal anecdote in the hopes of entertaining their crowd? Vocally, this show sounded more like that than what I think it was intended to be: a woman telling us an honest and humorous story about her brief experience as a Professional Dominatrix. Interestingly, I thought she played brief bits of several other of her story's characters with markedly more skill than her own.

I'm unaware of who directed or designed the lighting for this show, because programs had apparently run out by the time I arrived at the venue. However, the majority of the lighting changes were executed with no finesse whatsoever. Scenes had no smooth endings or beginnings. Rather, lines seemed to simply run full-force up until a sudden kill to black. Lights would shortly be turned back on again in an instant bright blaze, wherein it seemed Ms O'Brien would already be halfway done her next line before one's brain was even able to process the change.

My final comments in no way affect the star rating I gave this show, since they are my personal gripes rather than a commentary on the quality of the performance... However, I feel it need be said that I find the show's program description of a "provocative, humorous, thoughtful look at sex, pedicures, and what it takes to be a dominatrix" to be very misleading. I think it should be clarified that this show is about one woman's bad experiences, not with domination in general, but with Pro Domination (the pay-for-play kind), done in a place where the women work strictly for money and only pretend to enjoy most of they do in hooker-like fashion. I wouldn't have as much of a problem with that, had it actually been presented as such. Moreover, I don't think that it's in any way a "thoughtful look", using examples that range from awkward to graphic and presenting a very skewed view of the subject, in order to (as far as I'm concerned) exploit something that many people already misunderstand for laughs and shock value. If you're seeing this, and don't have a grasp on what BDSM really is, you'll leave thinking that it's disgusting or twisted, and involves a woman selling her body. Nowhere did this "thoughtful" show think to mention that an erotic exchange of power can also happen very lovingly and in much tamer ways between consenting individuals. Neither can I grasp why this is, considering that toward the end, there is a virtual sermon on feeling good and open-minded about each other. Really, I should just be glad she wasn't doing a show about sex; we would have all walked out thinking it was something nasty that only took place in brothels -- except, of course, that's a subject on which most people actually know better.

John Chase
July 27, 2005

(Note: This production is part of the 2005 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. Visit - http://www.winnipegfringe.com/ )

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