“We’re here to celebrate the body – squirts, blasts, noises and inappropriate acts,” proclaimed our host, the performer known as Fantasy Grandma, introducing “Exposure,” a group show about “works exploring the body” at a venue called The Collapsable Hole. What followed were a half dozen acts over the next two and a half hours that ranged from the indescribable to the indecipherable. But it wouldn’t be quite right to call them inappropriate. They provided just the sort of entertaining excess and weirdness we’ve come to associate with Radiohole, a downtown company that’s been around for a quarter century.
Radiohole’s “Exposure” last night was the first show in this year’s three week long Prelude Festival, celebrating its twentieth anniversary as “a completely free survey of the current New York moment.” The lineup this year features performances, panels and artist talks from some of the most persistently inventive figures of New York City’s avant-garde.
The performances will include a free hour-long excerpt from “Helen,” a reimagining of Helen of Troy by The SuperGeographics Ensemble Theatre and En Garde Arts that’s getting a full run at LaMama, and a free hour-long excerpt of “Ulysses,” a staging of James Joyce’s novel by the Elevator Repair Service, which I saw to great reward last year on Bloomsday.
Other shows from performers with great track records include Murder Room, co-authored by Anne Washburn, a playwright best known (at least by me) for “Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play” , and Etudes by Carl Hancock Rux and Mabou Mines, the legendary company that survived the deaths of its founders Ruth Maleczech in 2013 and Lee Breuer in 2021, and has been around now for more than twice as long as Radiohole.
Some of the individual performers in “Exposure” also have impressive track records, which is of course no guarantee that their latest piece will click. The performances offered a mix of stand-up comedy, interpretive dance and the sort of spontaneous play one might perform alone at home on a rainy day. The most complicated act was by Hannah Kallenbach, who portrayed a pregnant Minnie Mouse who, after squirting the audience from a bottle of liquid at her groin area and reading from a Covid test, gave birth to a doll that she addressed as her father. (“Why didn’t you call me?”/”I didn’t think you wanted me to call you.”) The simplest act was by Blaze Ferrer, who used a portable fan to blow red tinsel from his anus. But the weirdest act was actually by Kristin Worrall, because it was so completely unweird – a cooking show, in which she enlisted audience members to help her prepare a pear mousse. She did mention attending a sex club, which I suppose distinguished it from a cooking segment from an afternoon talk show.
MC Fantasy Grandma, aka Cara Francis in grey wig and orange jumpsuit, held the show together, and offered her own comic interludes, singing some clever/bawdy songs, accompanied by appropriately inappropriate winks and pelvic gyrations.
Peter Mills Weiss, wearing the kind of motion capture suits used to create the characters in movies like “Avatar,” presented a lowkey monologue that riffed on the bodies of toys. Kristel Baldoz and Dante MIgone-Ojeda staged a physical fight in which they pummeled one another in a variety of ways, with minimal dialogue:
“What are you laughing at?”
“I’m laughing at you.”
Halfway through their act, Alex Tatarsky grabbed a microphone and gave a running commentary that put the battle in perspective. “This is performing artist versus visual artist!” Later, she compared the difference between life and art. “Art work will gain value over time. A body will only lose value over time.”
Tatarsky turned out to be the standout in the show. She followed her fight narration with a solo act that felt like next generation Karen Finley. From an orange Home Depot bucket, she took out a skull, cereal and almond milk, turned the skull into a cereal bowl from which she ate breakfast, put on a body suit that revealed all, then wore a pink feather boa jacket then stripped it all off and simulated pooping in the bucket – all of which somehow felt more witty than shocking.