Qulture Shock: A Short Skirt Butch Review

Posted on July 1, 2012 by

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Lee-Anne Poole’s one-woman play, Short Skirt Butch, is a brilliantly funny but shockingly brutal portrayal of a woman who’s self-defeating, asinine and psychopathic behaviour lands her in a threesome in which she is casually exploited and then dumped, after having been warned repeatedly by her friends that that’s exactly what would happen. I was privileged to see this brilliant play at Gallery Connexion in Fredericton on Saturday June 30. The lead character, Jean, was vibrantly brought to life by Stephanie MacDonald, deftly directed by Bryden MacDonald, and well-adapted to the small stage at Gallery Connexion.

Jean confesses to the audience that she knows full well that this couple has exploited other roommates in the past, that her best friend Adam told her repeatedly not to get involved, that she has been involved in triads before that went badly, but so what, she wants to fuck them. What’s brutally funny about this portrayal of this character’s unabashed psychosis is that Jean makes a complete ass of herself on stage, to which the audience intensely responds with cackles, jeers and uproarious laughter.

There is a point in the play when Jean begins to describe the couple that she has fallen in lust with. She describes them as smart, sexy, professionals who own a beautiful home, with all the appointments and luxuries that one would expect in a yuppie lifestyle: art on the walls, shelves of books, the best organic food and wine. Yet even as she reveals their betrayal of her affection, I was sitting at the edge of my seat—waiting for Jean to launch into a complete teardown of this couple, waiting for her to sling every possible epithet and cuss word, waiting for her to rip these people to shreds who treated her so badly. Certainly, as someone who has lived with these smug yuppies for a year, she would have plenty of ammunition with which to rip them apart. But she does no such thing. The worst that she can say about them is that they are “secretive and conniving” and that “they dumped me.” In fact, she seems to have no end of admiration for them, even as they pushed her out of the triad. They are sexy, they are successful, they are the beautiful people, they have the high-paying professional jobs—they are everything, apparently, that she is not. I cannot recall any line in the play where I find out what Jean does for a living, what her skills and talents are, what she is proud of accomplishing in her life. No, instead, as the self-defeating, self-hating, pathetic buffoon that she is, she enters full-time into the triad having lost her job, having no place to live for having just lost her own tiny one-room apartment. She takes up residence in the couple’s house in a state of total powerlessness, in which she is completely dependent on the whims of this powerful couple and their demands on her to keep them sexually amused. When they are no longer amused, i.e. when she uses the forbidden dildo that is only for the couple, she is kicked out of the house. To which she responds, not with the expected launch into an all-out campaign to wreck their shiny public image, but rather like a petulant child who has been rejected by Mummy and Daddy. Instead of confronting them with an all-out fight, which you would expect from an empowered dyke who describes herself as a “gross butch pervert who spits,” instead she steals a key and breaks into their house while they’re at work, and fucks herself with the forbidden dildo. This is akin to an immature psychopath who steals for the sexual thrill, or a panty-fancier who breaks into women’s homes to steal their panties. It’s utterly self-defeating, asinine and pathetic, and yes, brutally funny.

Having an overwhelming compulsion to confess things about herself, we hear Jean say repeatedly throughout the dialogue: “I have to admit I_” a) knew this could go wrong from the beginning; b) stalked them around the city after the break-up; c) sent them emails and love letters even after they dumped me. “I have to admit I_” is a blatant admission of her obsessive-compulsive behaviour, her willingness to do anything for sex even if it means knowingly putting herself in a position where she is totally disempowered and demeaned, and her failure to see that all this heartache, abuse and suffering is at least partly the result of her own self-defeating, pyschotic behaviour, proven by the punchline at the end of the play: “And it was totally worth it.”

I absolutely loved this play — it was brilliant and I enjoyed every minute of it. I admire Lee-Anne Poole’s ability to fully realize a complex character, her crisp dialogue, Stephanie MacDonald’s vivid, energized portrayal, and, if nothing else, it gave me a chance to laugh at the “Jeans” I have encountered in life. Do yourself a favour and go laugh at the Jeans you have known in your own life, as this play tours the country:

Montreal: July 2nd, 8PM @ MainLine Theatre

Ottawa: July 5th, 9PM @ Venus Envy Ottawa

Sudbury: July 7th, 8PM @ BAMs Spanish Riviera

Toronto: July 8th, 8PM @ Glad Day Bookshop

Tickets for Fredericton, Montreal, Ottawa, can be reserved by e-mailing dearhalifax@gmail.com

Halifax: July 19th to 22nd, 10:30 nightly

Queer Acts Theatre Festival, The Bus Stop Theatre

Tickets – $12

Students, Seniors, Underwaged – $10

Tickets for Queer Acts are available through HalifaxPride.com

Short Skirt Butch, directed by Bryden MacDonald and featuring Stephanie MacDonald, had a very successful run at the Atlantic Fringe Festival (Summer 2011) with packed houses and rave reviews that earned it a place in The Coast’s ‘Top 10 Plays of 2011’.

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Posted in: Qulture Shock