If you’re not familiar with devised theater, it’s when an ensemble collaborates on the script, movement, and even score of the production, often through improvisation and storytelling. If you’ve never seen a devised show, Body. is a solid entry point to the method. A drama combining storytelling with movement, Body. allows us to creep into the minds of a talented ensemble and know that we are both completely alone and in good company when it comes to our often tortured relationship with our bodies.
Body. was created based on true, personal stories from the cast and creative team, as well as pieces submitted by—and interviews of—family and friends. Most people will find at least one story to relate to in this piece, and it covers a wide range of issues including chronic illness, sexuality, race, gender, age, and weight. The piece is presented by an ensemble of eight through 24 vignettes, the vast majority of which deal with the inner anguish we experience in relation to our bodies.
Director Madeleine Regina does an admirable job shaping two dozen vignettes into a coherent piece. The flow was almost breakneck at times, but it served the piece well as the work held the rapt attention of the audience well into the show. This made it all the more jarring when the flow screeched to a halt in the “Trial” vignette, but luckily Greg Ongao’s gut-wrenching silence in “Dancing with Decay” recovered the pace, and our attention, to the end.
The ensemble (Jennie Bissell, Reid Herreid, Rebecca Kiser, Mel Nichols, Axandre Oge, Greg Ongao, Tatyana Ridgeway, Katie Wicklund) is superb. There wasn’t a single weak link and the group did a mostly seamless job of creating the feeling required by the story. The actors were particularly effective at creating the sensation of feeling utterly alone even when surrounded by people. Stage Manager Elliott Shugoll provided sound and lighting that was effective but not distracting, with well-placed musical hits to lift audience spirits amid some heart-wrenching tales.
I am only disappointed to say that I did not connect with this show, and I really wanted to. At a time when body positivity and acceptance is gaining traction, this show missed an opportunity to truly assert that while our bodies can cause us shame and pain, they are also our home and worth celebrating. As a plus-size gal, I could not relate to the eight beautiful bodies on stage, even as they served an important reminder that those with seemingly perfect bodies are struggling too. The fact is, our bodies and our relationship to those bodies is complicated, and no show could adequately cover every aspect of that story. Body. is a beautiful show and the entire team should be proud of what they’ve accomplished. So despite my missed connection, this is an important piece and I recommend adding Body. to your Fringe list.
Running Time: 60 minutes, with no intermission.