Minnesota Fringe Festival: How to Become a Complete (Southern) Woman

SHOW TITLE: How to Become a Complete (Southern) Woman
PRODUCER: Rachel Austin
HAILING FROM: Minnesota
SHOW DESCRIPTION: A new solo work inspired by and celebrating the women who raised me, this piece is a testament to the strength, determination and wisdom of women, along with our foibles, quirks, and insatiable zest for life.

This is an interesting review to write immediately following my review for No Stopping, No Warping, No Dying, because I think they play to some of the same instincts. By nearly any critical standard, this is the stronger show, technically, structurally, and otherwise: it paces well, the performer is practiced and assured. But at the end of the day, I had a better time at the one with an 8-bit soundtrack. Why?

I think a lot of this comes down to rituals of despair. Rachel’s rituals involve reclining on a couch and eating ice cream out of the bucket, involve belting out songs made famous by pop divas. I recognize these rituals, but I don’t identify closely with them. (I certainly don’t have a problem with them, and they’re no more ridiculous than my rituals of pounding whiskey, playing nineties RPGs, reading Grant Morrison comics, and masturbating furiously.)

Her rituals aren’t as familiar to me, they’re less intimate, and so I suspect I was feeling what the non-gamers in the last show were: a sense of distanced admiration. Much of the laughter I heard from the crowd here was laughter of recognition. This is built for a very specific audience, one that I don’t belong to.

With that said, I do recognize a skilled and accomplished storyteller when I see one, and what she’s doing here is a competent balancing act of warmth and whimsy and reflection. She’s just likeable, damn it, and knowing full well what an illusion a stage persona can be, I still walked away wanting to chat and get to know her better. On a cynic like me, that’s an impressive feat.

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