For most of us, childhood was a convoluted but mostly predictable period of time. And just when we thought we had this “human being” thing finally mastered, somewhere in the 8 to 14 years-of-age zone, we were blindsided by the most extraordinary thing that ever happened to our bodies.
Sexuality is, of course, an intensely personal experience, and that is how it’s presented in the fascinating one-woman play Feefer Rising, now at Cleveland Public Theatre. Created and designed by director Raymond Bobgan and performer Faye Hargate, this 80-minute journey through one girl’s sexual awakening is a messy, honest, startling, and sometimes lyrical experience. The production is augmented by evocative electronic music composed by Matthew Ryals, and bandshell of paper constructed inside CPT’s Parish Hall.
Hargate plays Kit, a girl dealing with the powerful and unfamiliar feelings that puberty delivers out of the blue. She is beset by secrets, questions, interactions with peers and a host of behavioral options she never considered possible. Employing movement, dance, singing, cooing, and some very frank dialogue, Hargate fashions a landscape of blossoming female sexuality that you can feel bone-deep.
Kit nicknames herself Feefer, perhaps after a pair of scissors she finds in her family’s attic (the connection is never made entirely clear), and she confides with those scissors as she explores what it means to now be growing into womanhood. She experiences sex with school stud AJ, rails at her mother, and struggles with all the cultural baggage that our society piles onto adolescent girls. There are fleeting moments of humor and even one old joke: "How do you know when your pet elephant is having her period? When you mattress is missing."
Necessarily, this play doesn’t provide a neat and linear progression, so the play jumps and slides from one event to another—and sometimes to no event at all. This can be disorienting at times, and the challenging acoustics in this space tend to garble some of the spoken lines, especially when they’re delivered at a fast pace.
But like sexuality itself, this play can be sensed as well as heard, if you let down your barriers. Indeed, the understanding of what Feefer is going through comes at us through multiple channels. And this evocative collaboration between Bobgan and Hargate makes us feel as vulnerable, terrified and stimulated as when that mysterious awakening first happened to each of us. Certain in the knowledge that, however wonderful or awful those new emotions were, there was no going back.
Through December 19 at Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue, 216-631-2727.