Mixed Bag

Bloodhut Tackles Sex In A Poignant And Often Hilarious Collage.
By Margaret Regan

THE SIX PERFORMERS of Bloodhut march out onto the stage with their heads stuffed into paper bags. The reason for the secrecy, one muffled voice tells us, is that the sexual details of the company's new piece Between the Sheets are so intimate, so revealing that the performers have agreed on anonymity. Or so they say.

In the next instant, the speaker botches up the disguises by scolding a fellow performer.

"Kim! Please!" she says.

Revealed, an annoyed Kim Lowry takes off her bag and in revenge snatches the bag from the head of the speaker, who turns out to be Annette Hillman. Then one by one the other four women find a reason to show their faces. Guest performer Carrie Hill, for one, is starting to suffocate inside her plastic bag. "Carrie, we told you, paper, not plastic!" the others squeal as they rip the soaking plastic from her face.

The scene, with its punning title "Overtures," and its play on that nasty old male sexual boast about not minding a woman if she had a bag over her head, is more than just a funny gag. It really does tell us exactly what the Bloodhutters are up to in this new collage of pieces. They're setting us up for an evening that's funny, to be sure, sometimes even sidesplitting. But they're also letting us know that the performers, just as surely as they've doffed those bags, will unveil their most private selves.

Through dramatic first-person monologues and boisterous group sketches, the actors boldly take on every facet of sex as they've experienced it in their own lives: from the adolescent turf of the delights of teenage car sex and the agonies of the junior-high dance, to such grownup topics as illicit affairs, familiar marital sex, rape, lovers' infidelity, lesbian awakening. From time to time, an intense, and intensely serious monologue--Jan O'Dell's account of a brief affair with a man who died soon after, or Hill's story of adolescent assault on a Los Angeles beach, or Rhonda Hallquist's unflinching account of an infidelity she committed--mesmerizes the audience into absolute stillness.

But then in typical Bloodhut fashion, a goofy gag succeeds. Just when O'Dell finishes telling us about her lover's sudden death, the performers erupt into a sublimely ridiculous satire of a TV-nature-show, a skit called "Engendered Species." Lowry, cackling and scratching, is a hoot as the rooster who lords it over the complaining hens in his roost. And the penis of the humpback whale, TV host Hallquist tells us in booming emcee fashion, is gigantic. So much so that to move it, a whole team of women would be required. Sure enough, a gaggle of Bloodhutters, marching and chanting Army style, parade across the stage, the imaginary phallus slung across their numerous shoulders.

Also inspired is Lowry's "Sprechen Sex Mit Franca," a spoof of a radio sex show, complete with Germanic advice giver. The gags also have their serious side: the best of them zero in on the merchandising of sex in our cacophonous commercial world.

Bloodhut, founded in 1992, is a company like no other in Tucson. The performers are the writers, and vice versa, and their subject matter is the stuff of their own lives. Taking its name from the blood hut of earlier, simpler cultures, a place where menstruating women gathered to rest and build strength, the collective uses theatre as a contemporary safe place for women, where, according to a mission statement, "removed from normal time and life, they can talk freely, seek sacred visions, and bring them into the world." The women of Bloodhut show tremendous courage in opening up to public view the truths of their own lives, and by extension the truth of many women's lives.

Previous shows have dealt with such topics as the body, and the course of one woman's life. In the new show, not all of the 17 skits are equally successful: "BUDS," a piece about a support group for inflatable sex dolls, deflates, and so does "Lavender Lover," about the joys of dildos and vibrators. And appealing as some of the work is about budding sexuality (Hillman's first-menstruation story is an instant classic), this is familiar territory, some of which the group has covered in the past. More plentiful adult material, about sexuality for the long haul, would have deepened the work.

Nevertheless, in Between the Sheets the company is in wonderful form, bravely exploring parts of life too covered up by that proverbial paper bag. Dive in for a bawdy ride.

Between the Sheets continues at 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, April 10 through 13, at the Black Box Theatre of the PCC Center for the Arts, 2202 W. Anklam Road. Tickets are $10. For more information call 795-0010. TW

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