Review: Femme Playlist (Aluna Theatre)

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The workshop performance of Catherine Hernandez’s The Femme Playlist, played at Toronto’s Aluna Theatre, was an eye-opening collection of introspective life experiences

There’s a special place in my heart for the workshop performance, in exactly the same way there is for a brand new foal: I adore them even though they cannot yet do all that they someday will. You can see their good bones and spirit even in the hours when it’s all they can do to stand, damp and wobbly. Catherine Hernandez‘s Femme Playlist (shown at Aluna Theatre for a single-night benefit) is beyond the damp and wobbly stage; not quite outgrown some of it’s angularity but clearly at the last stage before dazzling.

Femme Playlist functions, well, like a playlist – Hernandez presents individual distillations of epochs or experiences of her life, in a sequence. Each of the movements, let’s call them, are grounded and specific and telling, exploring her experiences of of being exoticized or seen, attacked or welcomed. It’s an interesting way to pull threads of multiple identities together without a plot to string them with, and it works. Director Gein Wong – with her excellent track-record in helping powerful women, particularly, shape their narrative artwork – has Hernandez anchoring the pieces with repetitions of phrases and snippets of song, showcasing the rich warmth of Hernandez’s voice. As a pair, there’s a megaton of talent between Hernandez and Wong.

Some portions of the piece are still rough, especially a section at the beginning where Hernandez explains the genesis of the piece – the conversational tone seems all at odds with the stylish and stylized pieces that follow. But they’ll smooth out in time, I imagine, as both Hernandez and director Wong find their groove together – the collaboration between them is less than a month old, though the piece has been growing for a year.

Femme Playlist also functioned as a warm and winey fundraiser for Aluna Theatre‘s Panamerican Routes/Rutas Panamericanas Festival, an International Festival of Performance/Un Festival Internacional De Artes Escénicas happening from Feb 27- Mar 14 2014. And we’re advised that a finished version of Femme Playlist will be presented as part of the afteRock play series, Toronto theatre collective bcurrent‘s presentation of associated work. If you missed squeezing yourself into the warmth of the workshop, stay tuned.

Details

Femme Playlist played on Sept. 28th at Aluna Theatre, 1 Wiltshire Ave, Toronto