Written and Directed by Karina Casiano
Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Ran through 3.2.14
La Mama Theatre, 74 East 4th Street
by Adrienne Urbanski on 3.2.14
Karina Casiano in WOMANKIND. Photo by Cecilia De Bucourt.
BOTTOM LINE: Karina Casiano’s powerful, unusually staged solo show shows how our patriarchal world can be a dangerous, destructive place for women.
In recent years, it has been frequently said that we live in a post-feminist era, and that women have achieved equality, with feminist themed works sometimes dismissed as redundant or unnecessary. However, Karina Casiano’s powerful one woman show Womankind proves that the world still can be an unsafe and unfair place for women.
The play opens with Casiano playing an elderly woman, who comes home cackling as she hefts a large explosive device labeled “CAUTION KABOOM.” “ My entire life has had to be defined by the fact that I have a twat,” she laments as she spreads her legs, laughing a laugh tinged with sadness and bitterness. Casiano breaks down the gender roles and stereotypes that have held her back noting that being a woman means liking manicures and “crying on demand.” She notes that men are allowed to and expected to be “beasts” and wonders why then are women not given more power. She tells us that she has rigged the seats at the Super Bowl with explosives to destroy the public display of masculinity. Later we are shown a nine-year-old girl (is this the old woman when she was young?) on a playground, happy to find a dollar bill which she spends on an ice cream cone. Her fun, however, is ruined by the creepy men following her and harassing her, so that soon she throws her cone on the ground and runs home. It is at this moment that her childhood innocence ends and the dark cloud of sexuality begins to loom over her.
In one of the most well executed segments in the show Casiano gives a performance as a standup comedian replete with a canned laugh track. She says that the constant depiction of women as sex workers and the objectification of women are like a fart in the air, at first you are disgusted but after awhile you stop noticing it. She notes the sexist nature of our vernacular, asking why do we say “motherfucker” and not “fatherfucker”?
There are a lot of strong, important messages running through Womankind that rang quite true to me. Her segment about a young girl learning to fear men through their lecherous attention resonated with me, in particular. However, Casiano’s piece could be stronger if it were further fleshed out and had other parts edited. More real life examples and situations might have made her important message even stronger. Some of the more wacky and unrealistic scenarios (such as the old woman blowing up the Super Bowl stadium) weaken the truth and rawness of the more realistic scenes. While some scenes seemed to detract from the power of the piece, others were deeply memorable, thought-provoking ones that will live in my memory for some time to come, such as Casiano posing as a sex worker living inside a cage. Regardless of its flaws, however, Casiano proves herself to be an incredibly gifted performer adept at singing, acting, dancing, acrobatics, pole dancing, and more. She shows an obvious gift for both comedy as well as dramatic acting. Womankind makes a lot of compelling arguments about how difficult life still is for women in our patriarchal society and is a show even men should see if they want insight into what it means to be a woman in our world today.
(Womankind played at La Mama Theater, 74 East 4th Street, through March 2, 2014. Performances were Friday and Saturday at 10pm and Sunday at 5:30pm. Tickets were available at Lamama.org or by calling 212.475.7710.)