Theater review: “She Was Born” and She Is Bold at the Off Center

(This review was written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Andrew Friedenthal).

In She Was Born, playing through Saturday at the Off Center, the line between theater and dance disappears entirely for an hour-long show that justifies the raw power of live performance.SheWasBorn_scream

Presented by the Rude Mechanicals, She Was Born is the work of Nat & Veronica, an artistic team who normally split their time between New Orleans and New York. In this production, Nat Kusinitiz is behind the scenes, serving as director and backstage crew, while Veronica Hunsinger-Loe spends the entire performance on stage, mere inches from the intimate audience.

Hunsinger-Loe is an actress with a ferocious talent for physical performance, as proven by her ability to relate a clear and cogent story without a single line of intelligible dialogue. She Was Born is the story of a creature – an insect? an alien? – that reproduces asexually via unfertilized eggs. The performance shows the death of one iteration of this creature, the birth of the next, and the repetition of its life cycle.

It is in clearly delineating the various stages of growth and life that Hunsinger-Loe shows her raw, transformative strength. Her specific, careful, and motivated physicality literally evolves as the creature’s life progresses. The audience is treated to the playfulness, ravenous hunger, and delightful learning stages of youth; the steely resolve and dangerous love that come with the creation of a new egg; and the physical breakdown of old age, where preparations for the next offspring in the cycle override any exhaustion or self-concern.

What is most remarkable about this evolution is how Hunsinger-Loe reveals it with her entire body. Her expressions, her animalistic grunts and clicks, even her tongue and toes are all fully engaged with presenting this creature’s existence.The set deserves its own accolades, as it creates an entire alien world (into which the audience enters) through the use of paper and masking tape. Kusinitz, although off-stage, serves as a physical presence in the performance, closely tying light and sound cues to Hunsinger-Loew’s on-stage explorations.

Make no mistake, She Was Born is experimental theater, but it is not so avant-garde that it eschews narrative, character, and emotion. Rather, it eliminates human speech, and even humanity itself, in order to reveal that certain concerns about life and love are universal to all creatures great and small.

“She Was Born” continues through Saturday. www.rudemechs.com


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