Saturday, February 4, 2012

"Body Awareness" ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Annie Baker's Body Awareness is too crazy not to be real. Body Awareness Week at tiny Shirley State College will make you cringe, with all its politically correct nonsense-garble. But Body Awareness Week, where young women can learn about their exploitation by the white male gaze, falls apart when Frank Bonitatibus shows up with his photos of naked women.

Howard Swain is just perfect as the wacko photographer who sees visions every day of his dead mother. Somehow this smarmy nut case becomes the voice of reason, partly because he is the only one who can talk to Jared. Smooth Frank's sex advice to ultra-inhibited Jared is -- well, classic.

Ah, Jared. Convinced he does not have Asperger's Syndrome, although he displays every single symptom, we gradually come to identify with him as we realize his basic fear: he does not want to be called retarded. Patrick Russell is so dominant in this role that we worry about him in real life. Caution: expect sudden shouting.

Jeri Lynn Cohen plays Joyce and Amy Resnick is Phyllis, the lesbian couple responsible for Body Awareness Week. Phyllis has been a lesbian all her life, while Joyce is a more recent convert, and as we come to see, not necessarily all that sure about it. Frank awakens a desire in her to pose for him, which of course puts Phyllis into a blue funk.

But Amy Resnick is incapable of being in a funk without also cracking us up. The show is a delight start to finish. Kent Dorsey's sets and lights compliment Joy Carlin's direction. Annie Baker has given us a romp that makes us feel proud of ourselves while also skewering us to our own misguided good intentions.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards Body Awareness Four Stars. Swain and Russell take the first, Resnick and Cohen the second, Director Carlin the third and, most important of all, Annie Baker's writing brings it all home.

"Body Awareness"
The Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
EXTENDED through March 11

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