At: Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph
Phone: (312) 742-8497; $12
Runs through: May 10
If the first part of this year's Estrogen Fest is any indication, the women (and men) behind this joyous celebration of the feminine psyche and body is a no-holds-barred winner. Dubbed Female Identity—It's Not Just About the Hair, Estrogen Fest collects the talents (dramatic, vocal, instrumental, comedic, dance, or that artsy catch-all, performance) of dozens of local artists and theater companies to showcase the vagaries of feminine identity.
This review, of necessity, confines itself to part one (Extra Body) of the festival (which will run April 10-12); part two (Flexible Hold) takes place April 17-19 and April 24-26; and part three (Sheer Strength) runs May 1-3 and May 8-10. Got those dates? Good, because I think it's safe to say that the talented legions behind Estrogen Fest can pretty much guarantee a great time.
Extra Body, which kicked off the fest, was a delight. Its dozen or so pieces artfully sparked thought, pathos, universality, and a big measure of giggles and guffaws. And I don't even produce estrogen … not much anyway. Extra Body opens (after a warm-up from the quirky string and laryngitis-tinged vocals of the band, apartment, and a rendition of 'She's the One' from A Chorus Line which featured the cast of that night's show) with 'Estrus Estranged' a spoken-word piece by local performance artist Stephanie Shaw. Self-effacing ('I'm pushing 40 … with a short stick'), warm, clever ('I'm wearing the interdisciplinary art student glasses'), and hysterically funny (showing off her stretch-marked belly, she quipped, 'People take one look and think I've been in a fire.'), Ms. Shaw delivered a monologue that hit the highs and lows of being a mother and, more broadly, being female today. Pamela Peterson welcomed us to 'Estrogen Café' and performed two songs: the first, 'Song of the Self-Help Junkie' lampoons Oprah, Chopra, and Dr. Phil acolytes and was an assured deconstruction of the 'evolved'; the second was an on-target rendering of that Bernadette Peters' paean to masturbation, 'Making Love Alone.' Six Phobia Poems and a Suicide, featuring the poetry of Anne Sexton and local poet Susan Hahn, traversed a variable emotional landscape with uncompromising humor and understanding. A short play, 'We Are Our Mothers' Daughters' uses the tale of a woman who drove three of her four daughters into the Hudson Bay as a jumping-off point, if you will, for seriocomic reflection on the legacy women receive from their mothers and what they pass on to their daughters. 'Piece of Ass,' sprightly performed by the Teatro Luna was a hilarious, on-target exploration of the Latino culture, ahem, behind the female derriere.
All in all, Estrogen Fest, could change the mind of even the most hard-hearted misogynist. You gotta love these women!