By Terra Warman (Havoc!), Kaedy Fischer (Breastimonials), and Buket Gulbeyaz (Habitat)
Produced by 4th U Artivists
Off Off Broadway, Short plays and monologues
Ran through 4.23.17
Fourth Universalist Society, 160 Central Park West
by Ran Xia on 4.23.17
The cast in Breastimonials, a part of Body of Women.
BOTTOM LINE: This empowering program of deeply personal monologues about women's breasts, a play about trans rights, and a mini rock concert will make you love your body more even with all its imperfection.
Body of Women is designed as a program with three shows interwoven with each other: Brestimonials (a series of monologues about breasts), Habitat (a play about trans rights by Buket Gulbeyaz), and Havoc! (a rock concert featuring Terra and the Dactyls). The three are drastically different in style but the combination does not seem jarring because the theme they address remain consistent.
The program is preceded by a screening of Poppy Liu's Names of Women, a short film made by the actress documenting her abortion. The film is a beautiful love note to the camaraderie shared between women and a testimony of how one individual is strengthened by a community. Community is indeed a keyword for the evening, making Names of Women an appropriate opening act to introduce the rest of the show.
Occupying the main stage is Habitat. In the play, a young student follows a trans activist home in order to observe life "on the other side," and ends up witnessing the violence experienced by the queer community. The play is done in a melodramatic style, which makes the violence depicted in the story eerily disturbing. The play is performed in separate scenes, each followed either by a monologue or an original song by Terra and the Dactyls, where Terra Warman leads a team of female singers to perform music in the style of Florence and the Machine or P!nk.
Fourth Universalist Society (4thU) has been a long-term supporter and collaborator of Eve Ensler's V-Day. With their annual productions of The Vagina Monologues, The Good Body, and Emotional Creature, the 4thU Artivists thoroughly embody the mission statement of "Activism through the Arts." So it only makes sense that Brestimonials (Kaedy Fischer), one of the central pieces of Body of Women, is in true Ensler style. A collection of monologues detailing the personal accounts of women's breasts, Brestimonials is performed by a diverse ensemble of women. In their candid voices, those women tell of their pride and secrets of their breasts. In "16 and Pregnant," as the performer details her experience breastfeeding her child, the mothers in the audience smile and acknowledge their shared experience. The most beautiful thing about the piece is not an exquisite design (they perform their monologues in front of a simple background decorated by a few pairs of bras), or epic adventure plot lines, but how relatable these women's stories are. The apparent vulnerabilities and adamant strengths are clear, and the personal, mundane nature of the monologues make these stories recognizable: those women are our teachers, grandmothers, sisters, next-door neighbors, bosses, immigrants, colleagues we've barely spoken with, and ourselves.
(Body of Women played at Fourth Universalist Society, 160 Central Park West, through April 23, 2017. The running time is 2 hours with an intermission. Tickets were $17 - $28 and were available at eventbrite.com or by calling 929-266-8420. For more information visit 4thuartivists.com.)
Body of Women is by Terra Warman (Havoc!), Kaedy Fischer (Breastimonials), and Buket Gulbeyaz (Habitat). Breastimonials Collaborative Director is Claire Edmonds. Lighting Design is by Andrew Yanchyshyn. Sound Design is by Matt Puchir. Stage Manager is Margie Zarcone (Habitat). Costume Design (Habitat) is by Sarah Thea. Organizer/Founder of 4th U Articists is Deborah Roth.
The cast is Matt Appleby, Ricardo Montt, Gerard Moss, Gilluis Perez, Marissa Feinburg, Katie Garcia, Melissa Gonzalez, Shena Gryffudd, Mary Anne Holliday, Sam Johnson, Steven Koutsomitopoulos, Michal La Rue, Sharon Litwinoff, Zafreen Mahfooz, Malcolm Minor, Rev. Lynn Bourbeau, Miesha Brown, Miaojuan Chen, Marine Schmitz, Maria Souza, Joanie Watkins, Margie Zarcone, Kaedy Fischer, Buket Gulbeyaz, Terra Warman (Terra and the Dactyls), and Deborah Roth.