Leaking From Every Orifice | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Leaking From Every Orifice 

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LEAKING FROM EVERY ORIFICE, Bailiwick Repertory. In her play Monkey Dancing, seen earlier this season in Bailiwick Repertory's Pride Performance Series, English writer Claire Dowie limned the troubled relationship between an androgynous lesbian anarchist and an assimilationist gay man who shock their queer pals by flaunting their antiseparatist, erotically ambivalent friendship. Taking the idea a step farther is Dowie's solo show Leaking From Every Orifice, in which she discusses getting pregnant by her gay boyfriend (the condom broke) and then deciding to have the kid in order to emulate/compete with her former lesbian lover, now a happily married mum.

A 36-year-old woman who looks like a 14-year-old boy (as she acknowledges), Dowie has a manically self-conscious performance style punctuated by breathy, anxious laughter and twisting, jerky arm and leg movements--she's an exposed nerve in jeans and a T-shirt. Making her mainland U.S. debut, she meanders from the autobiographical main topic into various ruminations on more or less related issues. Smokers' rights is a repeated motif, brandished insistently against scientific evidence concerning cigarettes' effect on fetal development; other digressions address heterosexuality ("a species survival conspiracy thing"), the role of advertising in social sex conditioning (it isn't the woman selling the beer or the car, she asserts of male-oriented commercials, it's the car or beer selling the woman), and the physical indignities visited upon pregnant women versus the sanctified image of motherhood. ("I'm not hormonal," she resentfully insists. "Hormones are for girls. I'm a dyke.")

Though Dowie is intelligent and sometimes quite funny, her alternately defiant and defensive attitude undermines her aspirations to cutting-edge independence, as the radical queer's contempt for convention vies with the misfit's craving for attention. This tension was more effective in Monkey Dancing, the basis for its dramatic conflict; though she started out as a stand-up comic, Dowie seems a better playwright than performer. Perhaps her edgy persona and open bisexuality make her an interesting anomaly in England; in Chicago, where there's a bisexual monologuist on every other street corner, she's just another face in the crowd.

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