Go Go Go

Written and Performed by Juliana Francis
Directed by Anne Bogart
Performance Space 122
Non-union production (closed)
Review by John Michael Koroly

An indictment of the sex industry and the societal forces that feed it, Juliana Francis's Go Go Go is a performance piece as simplemindedly polemical as it is artistically spastic. Francis is a disciple of Reza Abdoh, the late theatrical iconoclast, but one should not immediately hold that against her. True, Abdoh was one of the worst no-talent, gallingly didactic, intellectually adolescent anti-artists ever to work on the New York stage. But Francis seems to have at least a better, sturdier command of visual montage and a much clearer sense of connections between images and text. She is also, here at least, working with the extremely gifted director Anne Bogart, who's done so much stimulating work for En Garde Arts and other venues.

Still, the temptation to the empty flourish seems too often to have prevailed with both of them. It avoids the worst aspects of "victim art," namely the whining, petulant self-pity, but collapses under the weight of its burdensome "cleverness."

Francis's rather protean text makes an explicit link between childhood sexual abuse and the emotional scars that would lead a young woman into prostitution. Fair enough. But she proceeds to make no discrimination between streetwalking and any other job in the sex industry. Topless dancers, porn stars, and go-go girls are all lumped into the same category without any conclusive linkage.

This scattershot thesis seems to lead Francis into several different directions at once, leaving the overall effect dramatically diffused. Not enough is clearly asserted in terms of what is really going on. She tells the audience that, as a child, she broke her own pubic bone "to save myself from being raped." By who? Her father? Some other sexual predator? The effect is numbing.

More than once, she is on target with a well-written swipe at a worthy enough target, such as the deformities women inflict on themselves to sate men's obsession with enormous breasts. But, in the next breath, she's into an inexplicable parody of the Jerry Lewis telethon. Is Francis saying Lewis is exploiting kids the same way the prostitution industry does? If so, it is a comparison beneath refutation.

Again, Bogart is a gifted juggler of sound and image. The use of video clips and the avant-kitsch soundtrack by Raul Enriquez (blending Elvis with ambient) disoriented stylishly. James Schuette's abstractions in his set design were well-realized. Doey Lüthi's costumes had an audacious flamboyance that served the mood. And Heather Carson's lighting was a gripping swirl of the nightmarish and the ethereal.

In Go Go Go, Francis showed, despite her faults, a lot of potential as a provocative theatre artist. She needs to shed some sloppy thinking and hone her fiery imagination to a proper focus. Then we might truly see something on the order of what she imagines this show to be.

Box Score:
Writing 0
Directing 1
Acting 2
Set 2
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 2
Copyright 1997 John Michael Koroly

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