A Performance is a Memoir in Time and Space

by Martha Sherman

Adrienne Truscott is a dancer. I know, because she said so. And – whoa – said so much more. “THIS,” a wild ride through Truscott’s stories, comedy routines, political riffs, and multi-media movement, was anything but categorizable. Truscott, a controversial performance artist known as the one who tells rape jokes, got that part right out of the way. This time, the brief stand-up segment at the show’s start focused on abortion jokes, and a long, explicit riff on oral sex that was both funny and distinctly uncomfortable. And that was the point.

Adrienne Truscott in “THIS .” Photo © Paul B. Goode

Claiming that she “wrote the show this morning,” and that “THIS” was “the opposite of canceling,” she rolled fluidly from one incongruous, disconnected topic to the next. The large stage at New York Live Arts was dressed with two wide curtains that looked like falling rain, and a screen on which an image of a mysterious Truscott emerged from a verdant patch of weeds. A plastic-covered piano stood upstage, and a neon sculpture of the word “THIS” stood upstage right throughout the performance, sometimes lit, sometimes dark. Truscott remarked that “this” has the same letters as “shit;” and so it does. There was a lot of truth-telling in the evening.

Truscott is a whirlwind. In “THIS,” she did almost everything except dance, though her claim that the work was a “body-based investigation” was not inaccurate. Her body became the vessel for the evening’s most memorable scene, as she stripped and pulled an endless roll of toilet paper from her vagina, reading as she went: it was the Benghazi transcript emerging from her private parts. And it was endless. So was Truscott’s patter – non-stop, funny, foul, unapologetic. Tweaking both our sympathies and our funny bones, she used what she claimed was her own story, of abandonment by her mother in High School, and the convincing lie to her that it took for Truscott to remain alone. Her performing history and strategy goes back a long way.

There is no fourth wall for Truscott, just the world as it is. She had an audience member read a long story that rolled onscreen as she sat on the steps, snacking and watching with us. Later, she stormed up the theater stairs, glaring and exhorting us, then pushed her way into the light booth where she lambasted the production team. Nothing was predictable; all was grist for Truscott’s eclectic mill.

Adrienne Truscott in “THIS .” Photo © Paul B. Goode

When she moved upstage, and lifted the “piano” (which turned out to be cardboard) above her head to carry it downstage, Truscott shoved us further into her meta-world. Unwrapping the plastic and raising the lid of the instrument, she sat down to ostensibly pound out and belt a taped plunky tune that was actually blasted from speakers. Her art and artifice were entirely linked. When she described this as a dance and herself a dancer, she also reminded us that all was context and intention.

When it was time to go, a storm raged offstage, blowing papers and Truscott’s wild hair from beyond the wings. In the wind, she told a few more jokes – about a Lesbian, a Trans, and a Jew – just for good measure. A crash offstage signaled the end, and she slipped off into the dark.

“Sometimes,” she said, mid-show, “performances are so good they seem real.” What was the show? Who is Adrienne Truscott? What does she think? What is the art that she has to share? This.

copyright © 2017 by Martha Sherman

“THIS” – Adrienne Truscott
New York Live Arts, New York, NY
April 6, 2017

Cover:  Adrienne Truscott in “THIS .”  Photo © Paul B. Goode

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