MDLSX review: Fluid in Gender, Electric in Performance

There are several things worth knowing upfront about MDLSX, the visually spectacular solo show starring Silvia Caderoni, a member of the Italian experimental troupe Motus that is playing at La MaMa through January 17th:
1. Silvia Calderoni portrays a character named Cal, who was born with both male and female genitals, living first as female and then as male.
2. The play is inspired by the 2002 bestselling novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and, while it is not a straightforward adaptation, it uses whole passages from the book.
Number 1 is not clear until an hour into the 80-minute show — and not completely even then. Number 2 is never made clear – it’s nowhere in the program, although it’s likely to become apparent to any of the many fans of Eugenides’ Pulitzer-winning novel.

Nevertheless, whether or not the performer/character’s gender identity confuses them,  theatergoers are likely to leave MDLSX exhilarated. And, if many assume that it’s Calederoni’s life they just witnessed, in many ways it is.

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged.

Calederoni acts as her own DJ, playing 23 songs, from “Despair” by Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs to “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Wan”t by The Smiths, and moves to the music in a way that makes MDLSX feel like a dance piece. But she also acts as VJ, and presents home movies from what can only be her own childhood. That is her as a blonde girl singing when the show opens, but is that her in the white T-shirt when she’s an adolescent, or is it fraternal twin brother she tells us about?
She is a memoirist, speaking in Italian with English surtitles, telling us that any language is inadequate to describe the range of her (or anybody’s) emotions. She wants a word, she says, for “the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.”
But she is also too much of a live wire to be living entirely in the past, nor making do with words. he actress’s own androgyny is such that even when she strips bare and shows us video closeups of her body, we still wondered: So what’s the story?  Calederoni, who was Ariel in Motus’ breathtaking version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, re-entitled Nella Tempesta, embodies somebody not just fluid about their identity but electric in their stage presence.

MDLSX
at La MaMa
By Motus; conceived and directed by Daniela Nicolò and Enrico Casagrande; dramaturgy by Ms. Nicolò and Silvia Calderoni; sound by Mr. Casagrande in collaboration with Paolo Baldini and Damiano Bagli; lighting and video by Alessio Spirli
Cast: Silvia Calderoni
Running time: 80 minutes no intermission
Tickets: $20 to $25
MDLSX is scheduled to run through January 17, 2016

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About New York Theater
Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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