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In Performance: Adrienne Truscott, THIS (American Realness)

Adrienne Truscott
American Realness, Abrons Arts Center
January 14-16, 2018

The story of Adrienne Truscott’s solo titled THIS, as overheard in the lobby: in 2016, Truscott was commissioned by New York Live Arts to make a new comedy piece with an international group of feminist women comedians. To make a long story short, things didn’t go according to plan: by 2017, a key curator was gone, funding had been significantly reduced, and Donald Trump was president. Truscott could no longer make the piece she wanted to make, but artists need to get paid. So, instead of making that, she made… THIS. THIS is a total disaster—on purpose, and in a good way. If the show’s genesis, and maybe also the country as a whole, is “literally on fire,” then so the show is too. It is good therapy for a traumatized populace.

Truscott alerts us that she had a breakthrough, or possibly a breakdown, while writing the show in a coffee shop this morning. She introduces herself as an opener for herself, on deck with a “white feminist standup routine.” She wanders out of the theater while on a wireless mic, which cuts in and out as she traverses unknown concrete hallways; later she makes her way to the street and we hear a campy screech of tires and hail of cab-driver abuse. A major section of the show concerns how to get rid of your poop if you find yourself living, romantically, in a camper van in a Bed-Stuy parking lot. It’s a glorious fiasco.

Throughout, Truscott repeatedly embodies and destroys stereotypes. She’s desperate, but might not care that you showed up. She’s a confrontational performance artist, but also a clown who is not afraid to pander. And most powerfully, she’s a hysterical, distracted, evasive woman who’s just trying to get through the night—and a cutting critic of the casual cultural misogyny responsible for the stereotype she is taking on.

At one point, Truscott loses her willingness to misdirect, and challenges us: how she’s supposed to finish writing the show when Trump is in office? With power so aggressively revealed anew: of institutions over artists, audiences over performers, and the President’s threat of violence –welcomed by the electorate—over every person with a female body within the national boundaries? She strips naked, and begins to pull something from, it appears, her vagina—a long white strip of something, piling up in an improbable volume between her feet. “Oh my God,” she says, “It’s the Benghazi transcripts!” She pulls more quickly, the pile grows taller—“Oh, ok, here’s the part where she laughs…”

I laughed, and it was a laugh that hurt on its way out. And that is a pretty apt description of THIS, as with so much outside of the theater today.

Photo: Paul Goode

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