Theater archives

Sex with Dad


A woman gambols onstage in a red satin dress, smiling and waving to the audience. The dress is draped around her hourglass figure like a curtain, and her hair is piled high like some 19th-century denizen of the Folies-Bergère. “Tonight,” she purrs, “there’s no cause, no victim, no moral.” She begins an awkward striptease to a disco beat. The woman has comical difficulty removing the dress—it gets stuck while she’s pulling it over her head. When she’s done, she settles on a chaise lounge and begins reading a story from printed sheets of typing paper. The tale concerns a woman whose failed romances so closely mimic her relationship with her father that she decides to cut out the middle man. She shows up at Pop’s office and propositions him. “Dad, let’s fuck!” she exclaims.

If you didn’t recognize her before, this initial slap of confrontational sexuality in Shut Up and Love Me might remind you you’d come to see Karen Finley. For so long, Finley has mined the exploitative, violent, and dark chambers of sex that to see her bask in the heat of seduction and empower her personae with humor and passion may come as a pleasant surprise. But considering the echoes of all that’s come before, Shut Up—a show Finley’s been performing around town, most recently at P.S.122—is anything but a makeover. Her hodgepodge performance style is in full effect, too—finding a page missing from a piece, she summarizes; she switches the order of her routines midshow; and she hasn’t memorized a damn thing. But her charming sleazy-bitch side has never been so nakedly—dare I say it?—sexy. At the piece’s close, she pours six jars of honey onto a mat, bronzes herself in it, then reads a dreamy fantasy from sticky paper. “I want to be your mother,” she coos. It’s hard not to shut up and love it.