Valerie Hager in NAKED IN ALASKA.
BOTTOM LINE: A talented and engaging solo performance with some jaw-dropping moments throughout.
I have never been to a strip club, but after watching writer and actress Valerie Hager perform on the pole last night, I just might venture out. Not to get my rocks off, per se, but if every stripper is as talented at their craft as this lady is, then I’m in for an acrobatic treat. This is a woman who knows what she is doing and looks good doing it.
Naked in Alaska is an autobiographical solo show performed by Hager in which she recounts, and reenacts, her experience going from junkie, to proud AA member, to stripper, to junkie, to the enlightened female warrior she is today. A journey that would take her from from Tijuana to Alaska, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and then back home to live with her mother. Hager smoothly slips into over a dozen characters throughout the performance and gives us a taste, through actual on stage pole dancing, as to why she was so in demand within the strip club circuit. It is a raw, uninhibited, often cringe-inducing performance, and at its heart is an uplifting and unapologetic tale of female friendship and empowerment.
Hager is a talented actress and has no trouble keeping her audience engaged as she switches back and forth between characters, many of whom often speak to each other. I had no trouble following these transitions and that is a testament to her skill. However, I left wondering what the play could be as a small ensemble piece rather than a solo effort. For such an engaging evening that makes you want to stand up and scream, “You go girl!” I was yearning to see her connect to another female performer on stage in much the same way. Regardless of how she proceeds with this material, this is an actress and dancer with a unique story to tell, and some amazing moves to boot. I will not soon forget my time spent Naked in Alaska.
(Naked in Alaska plays at the Celebration of Whimsy (aka The C.O.W.), 21A Clinton Street, through August 24th, 2013. Remaining performances are Tuesday August 20th at 2PM, Wednesday August 21st at 7PM, and Saturday August 24th at 1:30PM. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door and are available at fringenyc.org or by calling 866-468-7619. For more information visit www.valeriehager.com/NakedInAlaska.)