Shut Up And Love Me
Karen Finley @ Union Hall
7:00pm, Wed 13 Mar 2002
Short Review: Abrasive
Branded obscene by many US political heavyweights, voted “Woman of the Year” by Ms. Magazine, and immersed in court actions against the US Government (over her revoked NEA funding), the last thing you can say about Karen Finley (especially having done a bit of research around the Web) is that she is a shy, introverted lass. Heavens no.
Finley appears, wiggling her arse at the 20% capacity audience, before beginning a strip tease to a Barry White tune. She stopped suddenly, anxious that some late-comers had brought a child in with them. Assured that this was not the case, she resumed her strip, wandering into the audience to lap-dance and rub her genitals on a punter’s shoe. Reclining on a lounge onstage, she indulged in five minutes of stilted ad-lib, before launching into her monologues.
Her monologues were… interesting. Many of the initial pieces saw her scooting between multiple “characters” (or voices) in a very disconcerting manner – it made all the monologues seem as though they were written with scatterbrained manic characters in mind. The “war veteran” piece, as well as the closer, were really quite good – the rest, however, suffered from a fatal flaw…
Finley constantly interrupted her own performance – to tell the audience that they should have laughed (“I NEED YOU!”), should be applauding her, or just for some barbed, self-effacing humour. This made the going tough; it made me feel like I was watching a rehearsal, rather than the work proper. Add to this the almost inexplicable “honey time”: after summoning the help of audience members to pour two pitchers of honey onto the centre of the stage, Finley proceeds to cavort naked in the sticky substance, before continuing the monologues.
In a Time article, Finley said of her performance that she “basically just runs around the stage making political-emotional commentary”. If you can handle the fact that she does this mostly naked, and that the commentary is delivered in a hard-to-digest and abrasive manner, then this may be the show for you.