By Austin Kaiser
“Do You Want To See Me Naked?” is about a chubby woman named Liz whose conservative religion and society pull her in one direction, while her sexuality pulls her in another. She gets aroused from vibrations in her car. She gets self-conscious wearing a short dress. She likes to fall in love quickly. When she mistakes lust for love, her bubble is burst, sometimes during sex. Elizabeth Golden was raised in a restrictive community that wanted her to wear braces on her teeth and on everything else, too. Now she lives in a oversexed society that preaches the exact opposite. The result is a self-conscious person grappling with honest, human desires.
On the stage stands a violinist who wears black and says nothing. There is a sculpted face mask mounted on a stick. Ms. Golden says, “I am a fat woman. I have desires and wants. I am a real person.” She reminds herself how happy and at peace she is. But she needs reassurance. She gulps. She runs from her position on stage and fumbles as if gathering her words back from the audience, succumbing to anxiety.
This embattled personality led Ms. Golden into difficult situations. The father of her daughter was a heroin user who, from the start, presented himself as a awful guy. Yet her desire for love and attention, and her naiveté, kept her attached. She should have put her boot in his face. Instead she bobbled through the motions of a relationship, until she was able to curl a fist and leave him.
Despite the seriousness of the material, the show’s vibe is goofy and melodramatic in a fun way. Ms. Golden reminds me of a YouTuber who uses lots of jump cuts, except she is jump-cutting in real life. “My body is a temple? Meaning, it’s a white penis-shaped building with people inside it?” she says. Ms. Golden’s humor is punny, and she likes to take phrases one step farther. Sometimes this reminded me how silly some of these mountain-out-of-molehill issues are, and sometimes I was disappointed because I thought the goofiness sidestepped real social criticism.
Ms. Golden’s character strikes me as a feminist coming into consciousness. She acquires confident ideas such as “My body, my choice” and “I am the only one who can give consent,” and learns to unsheathe these new logic swords on aggressive men. Yet she suffers from the real and unresolved scars of her conservative childhood, which lodged faulty logic swords in her neck, and made her wince at her reflection in the mirror. Anyone trying to break a habit will relate.
So will anyone battling their weight. At one point, Ms. Golden steps toward the front row of the audience and pulls her dress tight against her midsection. She says, “This is my belly. It’s always been big. Since having kids, it’s gotten bigger.” Her belly bulges in the white fabric and the cloth shows stress lines. This moment took my breath away. I saw a real person at her most vulnerable. She brought attention to something that she used to pray no one would ever notice. How often does that happen? At other points in the show, Ms. Golden raises her skirt to her waist and shows us her legs. She grabs her breasts. She holds out her arm and grabs the fat under her bicep. These were powerful scenes. They vividly illustrates Ms. Golden’s anxious thoughts when she lay in bed. This is what society told Ms. Golden to be embarrassed by.
When Ms. Golden married for the second time, I was scared. Her husband entered the honeymoon suite post-wedding and found her undressed in bed. “I wanted to undress you,” he said, annoyed. “I’m sorry. I wanted to surprise you,” Ms. Golden said, pulling back. Once he started to aggressively “make love” to her, she asked him to go slowly. As he continued to pump, her happily-ever-after bubble burst and she realized the marriage would be short-lived. It was a powerful scene, with great writing. Ms. Golden walks a compelling tightrope as she takes us through this traumatic event moment by moment.
This show might underwhelm audiences better-versed in feminist ideas. Ms. Golden shares a familiar story: a insecure girl with confused ideas about love gets conned into relationships with not-so-nice guys. When, in the end, Ms. Golden raises her hands and the stage lights dim, her new empowerment is expressed somewhat conventionally, rather than from her unique and fascinating point of view. But throughout her performance, the pain of her life experience is deeply felt, her sense of humor is admirable, and her newfound confidence is more than well-earned.
“Do You Want to See Me Naked?”
Performed by Elizabeth Golden
Nov. 3 at 6pm
Director & Playwright: Morag Shepherd
Musician: Ysa Pitman
Co-Producers: Dave Mortensen and Alex Ungerman
Design: Ike Bushman
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
AUSTIN KAISER is a writer with an expertise in art and the creative process. His writing is about improving your imagination and exercising your empathy muscle. Kaiser is currently writing a book called, “100 Questions Every Artist Should Have The Answers To.” His other book, “How To Go Viral & Put Wings On Ideas: A Book For Content Creators & Young Artists,” explains how ideas travel and which ideas travel best. More at www.medium.com/@KaiserMane.