From the moment she fluttered onto the stage-dressing gown clutched around her, her short dark flyaway bob bracketing crimson lips-- Meow Meow held us captivated. Was it her childlike giddiness? Her manic starlet hysteria? Her worldly, womanly curves? Or that in her query, "What is Love," she seemed to be asking another question entirely?
In all the sensation that we were watching a treatise on Love in the form of a burlesque, Meow Meow managed to instill her entire presentation with a sense of foreboding and desperation. "Ne me quitte pas," she entreats, demands, wails throughout the set. "Do not leave me." Even so, we the viewers are often left, hanging between words and the sound of her breathing in silences that stretch into discomfort.
The first encounter the audience had with Meow Meow made us wonder if the show had actually started. M.M. wandered onto the stage in said dressing gown, and apologized for being delayed, for having to talk to her mother, and for having to indulge her mother by dancing. Her entire demeanor was that of a grade-schooler trapped in a woman's body, especially as she began dancing along with what looked like footage of a decades-past performance of Swan Lake. Her eyes were always to the screen, as if for cues, in an appropriate dress-had it been zipped up all the way. Left hanging loose in the bust as it was, she looked even more like the small girl playing an important game of dress-up, someone trying to fill the shoes of forgotten dancers.
The almost-theme of the woman-child continued through the set. M.M.'s character (how close she is to this character in reality I do not know) is of the cast of tempestuous starlet, needy and demanding and jealous, and still somehow sympathetic to the viewer. We gathered that she had been in Love, and that (presumably with the phone call she received on a bright red old-school telephone that made her scream in bloody horror) she had lost that Love. This girl-woman (a little Dietrich, a little Garbo, a little Crawford) proceeded to put us through a series of 15 "scientific" questions "experts" had come up with as ways we can tell if we are in Love. She would read them to the audience, quickening in pace and pitch as she moved from one question to the next, until you couldn't understand what she was saying for the spleen involved.
Abruptly, she would leave off talking about Love to demand her Stuff, and to testify to her Love of her Stuff. Indeed, M.M. wandered off stage (as she was prone to do throughout the set) and came back with a weighty golden chain linked around her ankle-she moved to the center off the stage, sat on the ground in her slinky gold lame dress (there were costume changes throughout) and started to haul the chain in, dragging steamer trunk-loads of Stuff on-stage after her. The chain seemed cumbersome but she didn't mind because it was attached to her Stuff. This was just one of the many metaphors that seemed to be drawn around the question What is Love?
At another point, Meow Meow seemed determined to make the audience (or at least representatives of the audience) Fall in Love with her in 30 Seconds. She gave them lollipops, made them suck on them in time to an old burlesque standard, and then did a strip tease (both on and off their laps) involving 7 pairs of underwear and 3 brassieres. She seemed disappointed with the results.
I left feeling that I had watched something that wasn't about Love so much as about the gap that Love sometimes leaves, and how we don't really know what Love is even if we're swimming in it. Is Love corporeal, that we experience with the flesh? Is it spiritual, only existing in our mind's eye? Does the subject of our Love rank as highly in our esteem as the sensation of Love itself? What is it about Love that makes us content to sit in the shadow of our Desired's dog, if we cannot bathe in the light of our Desired themself? Taking a closer look at the spectacle I'd just witnessed (which was capped by Meow Meow removing her short dark bob to reveal long blonde hair), I almost think that the periods of silence and waiting in the piece were more instructive than anything else- we were left alone to wonder at her intent, as she had been left alone to wait and wonder after receiving the mysterious phone call.
My Mouth is a Wonder (a marvel of what?)
My Mouth is a Whore (who does it satisfy?)
My Mouth is an open Wound (what seeps from the rawness?)
Jen Rybolt is a PNCA student and guest contributor to PORT.