Theater review: “Missionary Position: Pleasure Journeys for the Intrepid Lady Explorer”

(This review is written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Claire Christine Spera.)

 

In Eleanor Dangerbottom and Amelia Weatherbeaten’s world, watches are miniature sundials strapped onto wrists, travel is by horse and buggy and sanitary napkins are held up by belts.

Oh yes, we’re going there.

Glass Half Full Theatre’s “Missionary Position: Pleasure Journeys for the Intrepid Lady Explorer” at the Salvage Vanguard Theater through Sept. 25 is a comedic look-back to the Victorian era. Our hilarious hosts are Eleanor (Cami Alys) and Amelia (Caroline Reck, Glass Half Full’s artistic director), spokeswomen for Hartman’s Hygenic Towellettes for Ladies, the first commercially available menstrual product for women. arts_review20

As they travel the world, touting the benefits of the Hartman’s product for that time of the month “when the persimmons have turned,” we hear about how much life has changed since the turn of the (19th) century: Women can now travel unaccompanied! They can keep their property after they’ve been widowed! No more bustles! And it keeps getting better — with Hartman’s, women now have ease of movement all month long!

Sort of.

Eleanor and Amelia demonstrate the use of Hartman’s Hygenic Towellettes on a display mannequin and in a ridiculously over-acted silent film, in which they speak so slowly we can read their lips (Reck’s crying, blood-flowing pantomime and Alys’ overly cheery sanitary-pad-and-belt procurement are a perfectly absurd match). It’s a clunky apparatus, though we imagine it’s a better solution for dealing with that monthly “lady’s holiday” than women have ever had before…we hope.

Stewards of the sanitary pad, Eleanor and Amelia travel to present the item at the Society of Learned Ladies, Where Ladies Share Knowledge with Ladies (in case you didn’t know). Only problem is they’re supposed to lecture on “The Practices and Customs of the Avian Variety.” Avian, ovarian — same difference, right?

Our heroines remain undeterred; they give the speech, essentially replacing the word “lady” with “bird,” and voila! Problem solved. Using a glove and feather, Amelia fabricates her own birds for the various demonstrations. She turns her hat into a nest for the bird, where it deposits ping-pong ball “eggs.” The ping of each hitting the floor as it falls out of the “nest” is like a slap in the face to Eleanor and Amelia, who grimace with each bounce.

“Missionary Position” is only an hour long, but could indeed be longer — it’s that entertaining. Among audience members, it wasn’t uncommon to see heads thrown back in laughter in response to Eleanor and Amelia’s antics. Actresses Alys and Reck’s half-smile-half-grimace facial expressions, peculiar euphemisms for “that time of the month” and physical comedy is not to be missed.

:Missionary Position” continues through Sept. 25  glasshalffulltheatre.com

Author: Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the arts critic for the Austin American-Statesman. She writes about visual art, theater, dance, music, performance, public art, architecture and just about any combination thereof.

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