How many clichés of the Female Experience can playwright Alva Rogers cram into Belly: Three Shorts? Mothers and daughters have trouble relating, men inflict violence on women, abortions rescue women, Vogue will save you—and so very many more.
In the most mind-numbing piece, mother and adult daughter Malu meet in limbo (“time: before heaven”; “place: the space between mothers and daughters”) attended by three silly angels who feed them memory-erasing cake. Only if Malu forgives Mom for fucking up her life can they attain heaven. The angels’ recitative, though pleasingly sung, suffers from banal lyrics. Sherry Boone, as their chief, miss cake, stands out: Her soulful voice and her presence charge up the inane lines. In another piece, about a futuristic race-purifying society, nothing and no one is credible. Another undesirable newborn eliminated? Yawn.
Still, the dreariness lifts now and then. Oana Botez-Ban’s inventive costumes and Mark Barton’s sensuous lighting offer oases of pleasure. Also Rogers, in a rare flicker of specificity, gives us an Asian American mother convinced that Vogue is the one true way to her daughter’s success. The vignette glitters like a tiny navel jewel on this bloated tummy of a production.