Orlando Fringe Review: Black Stockings
There’s no nudity in Dangerous Theatre’s production of Black Stockings, but there might as well be, as almost everything else is laid bare in this two-woman show about British prostitutes with painful pasts.
Trish and the slightly older Donna work in a brothel in Manchester, England, criticizing their clients, pondering their promiscuity and, in endless asides to the audience, revealing their innermost secrets, all in what they describe as “the filthiest show in Fringe.” But this combination of crude titillation and Brecht morality piece is actually more tragic than trashy, more cutthroat than carnal.
Although the play by established British playwright Peter McGarry has garnered awards in the past, most notably the top prize at the Canadian International Theatre Festival in Winnipeg in 2003, it’s only mildly moving at best and just plain ill-conceived at worst. Juxtaposing supposedly comic and insightful observations about the sex trade with gut-wrenching monologues about Trish’s abusive grandfather, Black Stockings is an odd and often tasteless concoction. And as if the confessions of child abuse aren’t enough, the play piles on, ad nauseam, references to World War 2 and the tragic firebombing of Dresden, in an attempt to metaphorically link men’s pursuit of war with their pursuit of sex, while a male blow-up doll wearing a bra and sporting an erection looks on.
Perhaps with a more polished performance, Black Stockings would work, but Brittany Lacour as Trish and Winnie Wenglewick as Donna aren’t up to the task. Lacour, who reminds one of Claire Danes, admittedly commands the stage and emits a smoldering yet sad sexuality. But her overacting makes her otherwise powerful performance almost as painful to watch as it must be for her to deliver. As misguided as Lacour is, Wenglewick, who also directs, is worse, lacking in nuance and power. Yet both fall flat with their Manchester dialect, which turns into a combination of the Beatles, Michael Caine and Dick Van Dyke, and, in Wenglewick’s case, disappears almost entirely at times.
During one of their many inane conversations, Trish asks Donna, “What the fuck is that smell?” Well, Trish, it’s the small of bad theater.