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Reviews NYCOff-Broadway Published 28 October 2017

Review: {my lingerie play} at Rattlestick Theater

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater ⋄ 27 September - 28 October 2017

Diana Oh makes an unapologetic call to arms to queer the world. Nicole Serratore reviews.

Nicole Serratore
A Concert Call to Arms (photo: Jeremy Daniel)

A Concert Call to Arms (Photo: Jeremy Daniel)

Theater that comes with a do-it-yourself glitter station worries me. I’m a radical introvert. Can I wear my glitter on the inside?

For Diana Oh’s {my lingerie play} 2017: THE CONCERT AND CALL TO ARMS!!!!!!!!! The Final Installation you most certainly can. Bring an open-heart and mind and the rewards will flow. Glitter or no glitter. This queer-centered, race-conscious piece of gig theater welcomes interaction and involvement but only if you enthusiastically consent to it.

Oh and her band (Matt Park, Rocky Vega, Ryan McCurdy) will lift you up and make you feel a collective embrace of understanding while calling for a new narrative to create a safer and more courageous world for everyone. In these dark days of the Republic, the show delivers a soul-cleansing catharsis with sparkles, fairy lights, bras, confetti, boobs, and bubbles.

Oh is focused on taking up space long denied to queer Korean-American women like herself. She plants a confident flag on the American Theater’s stage and she’s not ceding her ground.

So it makes sense then that at one point she warns, “All white critics we’re coming for you. We’re burning it down.” I think to myself, “Do you need a match?” I need no convincing it’s time for a revolution in the make-up of both the artists on stage and those writing about them.

Admittingly, as a white woman, I’m not the ideal voice to weigh in. But if the disappointing reality is Exeunt doesn’t cover this show or I write the review, I have opted for the latter. In my mind, this show is too important to leave unreviewed.

The queer celebratory space Oh and co-director Orion Stephanie Johnstone are making for audiences is necessary and rare. Bringing intersectional questions of race and queerness together through story, song, and community, they are hosting the kind of gathering we need in these difficult times—loud, loving, sexy, and fun.

This is the 9th in a series of 10 installations Oh is making in 2017. The project began in 2014 and since then she has created a number of public-based works. These often involve Oh standing on literal soap box in highly visible places (Times Square, Union Square) in her lingerie and addressing topics such as rape culture, catcalling, and male violence. Video of these previous events play around the theater before things get going to give you a bit of introductory context to Oh and her work.

The concert is a mixture of memoir (remember that crush from high school, shout his name), consensual invitations (come on stage and have your head shaved if you are willing—there was a volunteer who was the first to agree to a level 0 shave), rock music, and validated rage. This is less strict monologue and more dialogue (sometimes more than Oh planned for with some particularly chatty ladies in the front row). Snaps, whoops, and claps are welcome.

Living somewhere in the neighborhood of cabaret, performance, and storytelling, Oh, dressed in the aforementioned lingerie, blends the musical and narrative to follow the arc of Oh’s life. She tells stories of early romance, shoplifted bras, menacing catcalling, and her stint performing burlesque for cats. It is episodic to be sure but the emotional honesty makes up for the structural looseness.

The songs (music and lyrics written by Oh), are thrashing and loud anthems and gentle and romantic ballads with titles like “Fuck That Guy” and “Who Is To Take Us Home?”

Radical intimacy, negotiated consent, agonizing political truths, and the patriarchal structures that have prevented more artists like Diana Oh from getting space on stage all get an airing. But she brings it back to the personal and she invites us into the conversation early and often.

At the start, Oh has us recite together with her her 9 Invitations for the 9th Installation with 9 Exclamation Points which include statements such as “Caring is Cool,” “If You Need to Pee, Pee–Take Care of Yourself,” and “Only Do It If You’re Enthusiastically Consenting to It.” These are not rules per se, but the guidelines to our experience and involvement. They clue the audience into the spirit of what they will be seeing and participating in.

Even her invitation to let people use the bathroom during the performance carries with it meaning. Rattlestick has one of the last, awkwardly placed on-stage bathrooms in New York theater but the set of the show allows a path to the bathroom that does not disrupt the show.  Oh would even wave to audience members and wish them a good pee on their way in. With the war on trans people and bathrooms so prevalent these days, this gesture from Oh and company, pee when you need to, is more than a thoughtful, caring idea but a political statement.

Oh is an exuberant performer–whether leaping into the audience to sing, jamming in a guitar duet with Park, or grabbing the ringing cellphone of the lady in the front row and chatting on speaker phone with the caller.

Her playful approach is infectious and these invitations to participate or simply be in the room with her come across as sincere entreaties. Even without painting myself with glitter, I was happy to sing, shout, and blow bubbles.  I found myself crying on more than one occasion at the vulnerable humanity of it all.

But most important, Oh is liberating and empowering an audience who have been starved of representation and support. She leaves us wondering who else has been prevented from taking up space in the theater conversation.

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Nicole Serratore

Nicole Serratore writes about theater for The Village Voice, The Stage, American Theatre magazine, TDF Stages, and Flavorpill. She was a co-host and co-producer of the Maxamoo theater podcast. She blogs at Mildly Bitter's Musings.

Review: {my lingerie play} at Rattlestick Theater Show Info


Produced by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater

Directed by Diana Oh, Orion Stephanie Johnstone

Written by Diana Oh

Cast includes Diana Oh, Rocky Vega, Ryan McCurdy, Matt Park

Original Music Diana Oh

Link http://www.rattlestick.org/2017/08/04/lingerie-play-2017/

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