Liquor in front, poker in back

True Confessions of a Go-Go Girl

With Jill Morley
Directed by Damien Gray

A Belly Dancer's Story

With Sandra Catena
Directed by Dan Wackerman
Red Room Theatre at KGB (460-0982)
85 East 4th Street (Sunday nights)
Non-union production
Review by Marshall Yaeger

This brace of one-acts used similar techniques to show what can happen to a Catholic girl from New Jersey who goes in for exotic dancing and discovers the sleaze it attracts. The results were as different as the jaunty title of the first play and the everyday quality of the second. Whereas ``Confessions'' featured some brilliantly portrayed characterizations, ``Story'' mainly told ... a story that had as little to do with dancing as it had to do with acting.

Ms. Morley has done all the Jersey Turnpike exit towns performing straight go-go. With a silver lamé broken heart on her bum, she does coy, she does aggression, she does gross men, she does calendar girls, she does drag camp and a lesbian Latina. She does most of it with humor, pathos, gutsiness, or vulnerability.

Along the way she tells of the ``boob implants'' filled with toxic wastes that turn nipples blue; how men fold dollar bills; how dancers grab for them with shaved vaginas, getting paper cuts from the tips.

Some darker parts got unclear and surreal. But though her costumes were skimpy, there was plenty of flesh on the bones of this woman's idea. For example, she demolishes feminists who would criticize the selling of her sexuality by exaltedly blasting at the men who actually pay a dancer to pretend she's a whore.

Ms. Morley's director perfected the timing of her act and used the space creatively, as in one character's imprisonment in window bars, or distant voices outside the hallway of the tiny theatre. He also got fine performances from Alicia Harding and Tara Mooser.

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 2
Acting 2 Dancing 2
Set 0
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 1

In the second play, Ms. Catena got the creaky floor to throb to her Middle East gyrations. She so relished what she did that her ingenuous charm eventually caught on.

In a low light she exhibited the sensuousness of a beguiling serpent; but when she opened her mouth, out came a broad American accent that belied any foreign pretensions, and which she used more to recite her memorized script (as she might have lectured a fifth-grade class) about the ins and outs of belly dancing than to act the exotic character her profession suggested. ``They hired me!'' she related at one part of her nightmare story, as if the shock of success were totally unwarranted.

She let the audience know she's available for bar mitzvahs, and at such occasions no doubt she'd pleasure the crowd. But her timing was just a microsecond off compared to the (unaccredited) recorded Middle Eastern music accompanying her. The effect was slightly maddening, like a soprano going south at the end of each song. Neither Ms. Catena's nightmare experience nor her dancing failed to entertain; but neither captured the life-and-death magic of 1,001 Nights.

Among the lighting effects by Kimo James and Donalee Katz were some arbitrary black-outs for Ms. Catena and an occasional breast shadow when Ms. Morley accidentally obscured the slide projector she operated herself.

Ms. Catena's colorfully beaded and fringed costumes (designed by ``Tasha'') won hands down over Ms. Morley's scanty g-strings, designed by Ute Schwemmer.

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting 0 Dancing 2
Set 0
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1997 Marshall Yaeger

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