Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Bang or Bust?

By Wendy Rosenfield. Charlotte Ford's Live Arts and Philly Fringe Festival show Bang appeals to Philadelphia men and women, but mostly to women.

Bang or Bust?

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It's a funny thing about Charlotte Ford's Live Arts Festival show, Bang: about half the men I've encountered who saw it liked it, while every single one of the women to whom I've spoken about it really, really liked it. However, the other half of those men called it variously "pointless," "silly," "gimmicky," "stupid" and "lazy."

It's no big news that an audience sometimes disagrees on the success of a show, but the gender split here is pretty striking. For my part, I'm 100% on board with Toby Zinman's review, right down to feeling that the final bit undermines Ford's triumphant naked strut through Old City. 

Maybe women have an intrinsic understanding of the maneuvers behind Etzold's, Ford's and Sanford's clown personae that escapes a lot of men. And plenty of men mistake the personae women adopt when they know they're being watched for their true identity. After all, men fall in love with strippers and hookers all the time. Perhaps there's a pitch at which women operate that's just outside the hearing of some men; where they watch Bang and see a bunch of nonsense, we see tropes being turned inside out.

Part of it may also be that the trio explores just a bit about what it means to live in a woman's body, to live up to the culture's exhibitionistic standards when, in fact, you jiggle, you're awkward, you don't feel like it. The women remove their feminine mystique along with their clothes and make themselves ridiculous. I guess, if you take your sex seriously, or prefer women and their desires to be the butt of jokes rather than men and theirs, that makes some people mad. 

Feel free to agree or disagree. I'd really love to hear from other audience members.

And aside from nudity, another theme that's emerging this Fringe season is the claiming of female sexual identity--it's here, in Theatre Exile's production of Adam Rapp's The Edge of Our Bodies, and, from what I understand, also in Young Jean Lee's upcoming Untitled Feminist Show, which I'll review next week.

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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