Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Review: How to Make a Feminist Porn

By Michael Block

Sometimes we make plays that are personal and for ourselves. And other times we create art for a specific generation. In The Living Room's #liberated, a group of high energy ladies sit around and gab about hot topics but when one has a brilliant idea, their lives are turned upside down. #liberated is a feminist play to end all feminist plays.
What starts out as a women's group who do rage Zumba, eat Chinese food, and drink wine all while talking about feminism turns into a viral revolution via the creation of a feminist porn. But when the trolls attack, their ideals and will are put to the ultimate test. Created by The Living Room and conceived and scripted by Lillian Meredith, #liberated is a devised play that actually worked. It was personal yet accessible that was carefully constructed with a burst of energy. The play begins as a social media trending play with the ladies of a women’s support group sitting around voicing their opinion. When a new girl joins the group, the dynamic is suddenly shaken up. The girls decide to create a feminist porn that they ultimately put out for the world. And that’s when social media starts to destroy their lives. #liberated offers a strong commentary on objectification, sex, gender roles, and the great power that is anonymity on the Internet. When the play deviated from a Facebook conversation, the text and ideas were at its best. The only major woe was there was very little semblance of character development.  Rather the characters served as a unit. Certain characters had little journeys and moments of growth but in the end, they were one. But this isn’t a play about characters. It’s about social awareness.
photo by Jefferson White
There was nothing but energy on the stage at IRT. The sextet had a blast playing, bringing colossal harmony to life. The ensemble, comprised of Tamara Del Rosso, Zoe Sophia Garcia, Lillian Meredith, Gabby Sherba, Taylor Shurte, and Madison Welterlen, each actress brought a different dynamic to create a cohesive unit.
With a play being in development for a number of years, the final product was a collaboration between two directors in Rachel Karp and Jaki Bradley. Both Karp and Bradley were sharp in their vision and allowed the fun of the piece to shine brightly as the dark beats loomed later. But what #liberated should be celebrated for is offering one of the best overall designs in the space’s history. For those who may frequent IRT, it’s a black box with a plethora of potential but equally filled with hindrances. To start, if ever there was a place you wanted to live, this set was it. Scenic designer Frank Oliva presented a stunningly modern living room with clean lines playing off of squares and rectangles. Based on what Oliva created, this Brooklyn abode is probably out of many artists’ price range. Nevertheless, the ingenuity of the design should be applauded. From creating walls via curtains and the wood treatment to the floor, Oliva is a surefire winner. With beams to evoke a ceiling, lighting designer Scot Gianelli was limited where exactly to place lights. The use of the track lighting in the set was practical and still allowed for a number of looks. But what set his design apart was the color pop on the back wall. It made the space luxurious. The sound design from Ben Vigus rocked. Literally. From the evocative track choices to the amplified bass, the intent behind every choice Vigus made was spot on. You could simply say the script didn’t give costume designer Heather McDevitt Barton many options but she dressed the girls well. Each had their own distinct feel that brought out their personality. It may not have been a glorious design but it worked for this piece.
#liberated is slow to start. It literally begins like the sidebar of trending topics on Facebook. But once momentum and plot are introduced, #liberated is off to the races. The goal of this play is to start an important conversation. And that they did. The Living Room should be beaming with satisfaction with their accomplishment.

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