Pussy Valley – Mixed Blood Theatre – *go.*
Self-described as a story about the “lives of four strippers and propelled by the poetry and athleticism of live pole dancing, Pussy Valley is a profound exploration of the African American, white, gay, straight, young, and old denizens of a strip club in contemporary rural Mississippi.” But it is all those things and a little bit more. As a show, it’s also it’s a tremendous display of athleticism that pushes the boundary of traditional, “safe” theater. It successfully does one of the things good theater can do but fails to so often do – challenge norms and stereotypes with wit and emotion.
Truth be told, the show has a few challenges leading in. The knowledge that one is going to be hit with three hours of performance can seem a bit overwhelming. Some of the accents might start out a little rough. It’s a tremendously tough topic with complex components in the unassuming (but awesome) Mixed Blood Theatre space.
But after the final scene of Pussy Valley, it was hard to believe it was over, harder to leave, and harder yet to process everything we just witnessed.
Most reviews these days are unforgiving, harsh critiques. What could have been better, everything went wrong. But I don’t normally write reviews, so that’s not what this is. Instead, I’m going to tell you why I think (—dare I say, insist—) you should see this show before it closes on Sunday. For what little it may have done wrong it did SO MUCH MORE right, and seeing this play in such an intimate, exploratory setting is something not to be missed.
“They say the moment before your death feels like bliss…”
Maybe it’s a balance between beauty and pain. Pussy Valley – in script and execution – was simultaneously intelligent and sexy, but not in the ways you might imagine leading into it. For starters, seeing this in its inaugural performance at this particular venue is a blessing. This show is no exception to the ability of Mixed Blood to transform their space.
“How can you ever go back to who you were before —— the smaller version of yourself”?
Domestic violence, power, homophobia, sexual abuse, racial and economic tension – topics of considerable weight tackled individually are laced throughout each scene. It’s a lot to tackle. It’s a lot for an actor to present, and the subject matter combined with the setting make for a challenging story to communicate. This is particularly true for the four female leads, who pair acting with pole dancing to portray this narrative with powerful expression.
“Living isn’t supposed to feel that bad.”
They say tension is created on stage when two characters are distanced, and the poles add a beautiful layer of complication to this traditional equation. The four female protagonists are heard referring to their dance as an art form and this is proven to be the case in the show at hand, as dancing is laced strategically throughout the execution of the script to highlight, underline, and transition the powerful subject matter from scene to scene.
“Always keep something for yo’self.”
While the show was indeed beautiful in execution, it did not leave one feeling that the topics had been romanticized, as often can happen in the quest for safety and audience comfort. There is no shying away.
Mixed Blood graciously provides a venue for led conversation following the performance. Powerful, disconcerting, real, enigmatic, complex were but a few of the words that came out in the dialogue that followed.
A question from the dialogue came up, on the topic of relevance… “Does this story need to be told right here, right now?”
Your writer is up at 3am wrapping up this post to let you know you have three more opportunities to see this show before it closes on Sunday May 10th.
- For the privilege to see an inaugural script an exploratory setting,
- To contemplate the myriad of provocative topics laced throughout the story,
- To see challenging acting paired with exacting agility and athleticism…
Before it’s gone.
See you at the firehouse.
By Katori Hall
Directed by Nataki Garrett
Mixed Blood Theatre
1501 S 4th St
Minneapolis MN 55454