Before the play, I asked the babe I was going with if she had any idea what we could expect.
“It just says fake nudity,” she said.
I paused. “What the hell is fake nudity?”
“I have no clue,” she said. “I’m intrigued. Maybe, like, pasties.”
Fortunately for us, it was a little different than pasties. In fact, the first actor the audience sees inThe Naked Woman is, well, naked.
From the beginning of the FemFest play, Nan Fewchuk is a good fit for her character, Helen. Sassy, bold and definitely not shy, Fewchuk works seamlessly within her one-piece, flesh-coloured unitard splashed with stretch marks, a bush of pubic hair and a wonderful butt-crack (which shifted its position slightly as the show went on).
Helen, an elderly, wealthy widow with a recently deceased husband, is confronted at her condominium by Dennis, a lawyer who worked alongside her late husband. Dennis wants Helen’s signature to prevent his firm’s takeover and Helen wants nothing more than to be nude, old and sassy.
As the play advances, Dennis (played by Grant Burr), begins to lose his awkward, timid persona while Helen prances around her condo in nothing more than a necklace and later a blanket.
The pair share scotch, stories and eventually their bodies with one another, all while discussing cheating spouses, honest relationships, the hardship of parenthood and financial distress.
The Naked Woman’s strengths come from both actors’ gesturing. Over the course of the hour-long play, Fewchuk is seen shuffling, lifting her legs to cross them and weakly shoving Burr after a disagreement. Her character is meant to be 84, and she plays a very convincing, frail woman.
In contrast, Burr is more physically intimidating, standing much taller than Fewchuk. Still his presence is far less commanding than Fewchuk’s. When he accepts a sandwich offered to him, he shrinks and eats it with two hands. When Fewchuk sucks on a pickle she’s served with sandwiches, exclaiming, “You like to see an old lady eat a dill pickle? There’s a website for that,” Burr throws himself in the other direction.
The dialogue throughout the play was an absolute riot. When Burr’s character loses his lawyer-cool and begins a tirade of “fuck this” and ‘”fuck that”, or when Fewchuk would occasionally comment with a quick, snide remark or talk about Netflix, the audience was doubled over in laughter.
Though there were a few slip-ups with line delivery, the small errors did not distract from the rest of the play. Even near the end when Burr knocked over a falcon statue— apparently Helen’s daughter’s favourite thing as a child—the pair recovered gracefully with Fewchuk saying, “I’m sure it’ll be alright” (although the thing was in two pieces when it was put back on its pedestal).
All and all,The Naked Woman was a wonderfully smart and sincere play that asks the question, “What’s more powerful than a naked woman?”
Helen’s character was a refreshingly brass, yet believable, socialite who coaxed both laughter and empathy from the audience, while Dennis’s character did the same with a completely different tone. Both actors were captivating, well prepared, and a pleasure to watch, even if one of them sported pendulous breasts and a shifting butt crack.
Cella Lao Rousseau is a creative communications student, opera singer, and lover of all things true crime. You can follow her on Twitter at @hellorousseau.