By Celeste Cahn
Produced by The Tank
Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 4.18.18
The Tank, 312 West 36th Street
by Asya Danilova on 4.12.18
Celeste Cahn in A Lady Does Not Scratch Her Crotch. Photo by Deniz Çam.
BOTTOM LINE: Celeste Cahn takes a penetrating look into how a certain fairy tale affected her early sexuality.
If you are a woman, you were probably told more than once when growing up: “It’s not lady-like to burp” or “A true lady always keeps her posture straight.” As if societal expectations and pervasive dreams to become a Disney princess are not enough, then puberty hits and everything becomes a mess. A Lady Does Not Scratch Her Crotch is an honest and hilarious solo show, written and performed by Celeste Cahn, that reminds us exactly how messy the awakening of one’s sexuality can be.
Cahn evokes both the sweet and the embarrassing moments of her own early biography by holding conversations with the imaginary characters of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Mrs. Potts scolds her every time she wants to masturbate, Fifi the feather duster teaches her to apply makeup, and Belle's father Maurice introduces her to porn magazines. The three blond village girls in love with Gaston receive unexpectedly nuanced and sober personalities, despite Cahn’s inclinations to torture her blond Barbies. And then the macho Gaston himself appears, impersonated by the smiley face on the actress’s bicep.
Certainly, Cahn's show might especially appeal to those (like myself) for whom Beauty and the Beast was a favorite fairy tale growing up. But no matter what your aspirations and early sexual fantasies, there is something for everybody in A Lady Does Not Scratch Her Crotch, even if you are a gentleman. And in case you forgot what it was like to be a child, the memories will come flooding back as you play MASH with the person next to you before the show, or during the fortune-telling ritual on a “cootie catcher” at the beginning. Those silly, long-forgotten paper games help evoke those times when “to be ugly” sounded like the worst curse and “dying a virgin” seemed the least desirable future.
Cahn's sincerity and sharp humor are truly winning—I couldn’t stop laughing through the entire show. She looks homey barefoot, wearing a white “Dare To Dream” T-shirt featuring three Disney princesses. The playful tone of her writing, along with her passionate delivery, puts the audience at ease despite the somewhat taboo topic of children’s sexuality. Here, fantasies inspired by popular culture spark games, and the games become foreplay. And somewhere in the process, between the desire to scratch the itch and the embarrassment of doing so, one’s sexuality is born, long before the real partner in flesh appears. And that role is reserved for you, a random audience member.
A kiss is only perfect in a fairy tale; for a regular teenager it is a source of endless self-doubt and anxiety. At some point Cahn asks a volunteer to give her kissing feedback using a chart containing seven parameters. I can’t testify to any of those, but as for the show itself, it got all As by my standards. The topic itself is handled with care and sincerity, smart humor, and thoughtful staging. No unnecessary traumatic experiences weigh down this delightful evening, yet all the drama of youth is very real and relatable.
(A Lady Does Not Scratch Her Crotch plays at The Tank, 312 West 36th Street, through April 18, 2018. Running time is 70 minutes, no intermission. Performances are Wed 4/11 at 7, Thu 4/12 at 9:30, Tue 4/17 at 7, and Wed 4/18 at 7. Tickets are $10 and are available by calling (212) 563-6269 and at thetanknyc.org.)
A Lady Does Not Scratch Her Crotch is written and performed by Celeste Cahn.