Once you’ve seen enough theatre, you know not to trust a white rug. This particular one is fluffy, and expansive, and would stand out against the darkness of Basement Theatre’s space even without the row of warm footlights dotted along its front edge. Behind it, as a backdrop, a sheet of cellophane hangs, fluid and—as the lights hit it—shimmering.
Over the next 50 minutes, the space will act as both slumber party and bunker, oscillating deftly through the torment and triumph on display in I Get So Emotional Baby, the latest offering from All You Can Eat Productions. Created and choreographed by Jessie McCall, the work promises an investigation of “the ways in which women’s ownership of their own emotional and bodily realities is systemically threatened”. It delivers.
Thinking about the inextricable push-and-pull of form and content, approaching the subject matter of I Get So Emotional Baby through movement is a perfect choice. The choreographic medium allows for a shirking of language, a transcendence of the definite, and makes way instead for fluidity—for meaning that can be built upon or projected, assigned based on the audience’s lived experience; with roles that can change on a dime. Through the combined impact of dance and design, I Get So Emotional Baby enables multiple truths to coexist, just as they do in our reality.
The three performers—Sofia McIntyre, Anu Khapung, and Sharvon Mortimer on the night I see the show—make for a propulsive ensemble. Each is given a standout moment and takes it, but the strength of the work is in their connection. In the revolving door of relationships; in the shared jolts; in the hunger. It’s a group make-up we know well, culturally. They’re the Fates, the Graces, the Weird Sisters. They’re the Plastics, even. But they’re also, in many ways, every significant group chat I’ve ever been in. This collective aspect is crucial to the show’s messaging. So much of the experience of womanhood comes from what we inherit from one-another: shared rituals; abiding love; betrayal.
I Get So Emotional Baby presents the overwhelming complexity of individual, and collective, womanhood. This is womanhood as binding, as holding, as butterfly clips. As rushes of blood, as dressing and undressing. As pink wafer biscuits; hairography; slow-motion satiation; grotesque Disney score. As entrapment. As escape. It’s utterly without catharsis, too—but perhaps the robbery of that beat is the point.
All this is packaged in sound and costume design tackled adeptly by McCall, and bolstered by Paul Bennett’s lighting design (which feels epic, even in the relatively limited space). The tightrope walk of sweet and sinister has pop bangers careening into horror tracks. The aesthetics combine outright consumption with a palette that wouldn’t be out of place in the work of Sofia Coppola or Petra Collins. This, again, cues us into a conversation about femininity as a challenge to oppression vs. an act of conformity—which suits the show, I think: I Get So Emotional Baby knows the answers are more complicated than that.
On my way home from Basement, I call my best friend, whom I thought of frequently throughout the performance. I tell her I wish she’d been with me because I kept wanting to reach over and take her hand. The whole show had felt like that, really. Like reaching over and taking her hand. Like learning and unlearning; through torment, through triumph.
It’s rare that a dance work gets programmed for two weeks at Basement. I’m glad there will be opportunities for audiences to see this one. I’d like to go again myself, actually—to take my best friend; to check in on the state of Chekov’s white rug; to have it all wash over me again. This is a production in the hands of artists who know precisely what they’re doing. It’s focused and formidable; well-made and compelling. I’ll sum it up this way, as though every other reviewer won’t be doing the same: I got so emotional, baby.
Featured photo courtesy of All You Can Eat Productions.