Friday, October 29, 2010

Body Politic By Beverly Creasey

Walt Whitman sang the body electric and now Annie Baker offers up BODY AWARENESS in her award winning play of the same name (running through Nov. 20th as part of the SHIRLEY, VT. PLAYS FESTIVAL). What makes BODY AWARENESS cheeky and smart are her quirky characters: They’re delightfully self-absorbed and at the same time, lovingly human. Baker manages to spoof political correctness and work in a nifty conundrum about the politics of art ...without us really noticing. We’re too busy giggling.

Paula Plum plays one half of a hip lesbian couple and doting mother to an extremely bright but noticeably strange child. Gregory Pember is nothing short of brilliant as the toothbrush sucking twenty-one year old who seems to be an emotional twelve. The remarkable Plum pulls off “saintly” and “funny” without batting an eyelash. Her partner (the always compelling Adrianne Krstansky) is hosting a conference at her women’s college in observance of “eating disorders week.” Their son is not the only obsessive. The professor has changed the name of the conference to “Body Awareness Week” so that the students can “reclaim their body image” from those who seek to “objectify” them.

Into their out of control but tightly knit little family unit marches a guest artist (a droll Richard Snee), a macho, new age, male photographer who specializes in nudes (female only). Even worse than the exploitation factor the professor infers, he calls her ‘honey’… Even worse for the uninitiated son, he imparts some hilariously appalling advice to him about sex. Baker has the perfect setup to whirl into motion – and does it ever in director Paul Daigneault’s deft, seemingly effortless production. BODY AWARENESS pleases, from Nathan Leigh’s spot on (laugh out loud) musical interpretations to Bobby Frederick Tilley II’s collegiate garb to Cristina Todesco’s sophisticated, book filled, light filled (Jeff Adelberg) apartment.