Review: The Objectification of Things

I can’t help but smile when I think about the performance I saw at DiverseWorks on Friday night. Michelle Ellsworth and two sidekicks performed “The Objectification of Things,” a snarky little romp about the thing-ness of the hamburger. And snarky it definitely was. The piece began with the Unveiling of the Hamburger which took quite a while because the poor thing was hidden, Russian-doll-style, beneath in a variety of weird textures: velvet curtains, chicken wire domes, a leather and twizzler corset, etc. Many of these textile concoctions already had me snorting (quietly, I was trying to be quiet).

Once into the show, all three performers broke out in song about the scientific makeup of the hamburger (it is made of carbon, we are made of carbon). A song about the sociological and historical implications of the hamburger, the people that brought the hamburger to the masses, etc. Ellsworth’s two sidekicks were a bizarre mix of go-go dancers and queen’s attendants, usually in sync, moving thru a haphazard set of gestures. I do wish their choreography were a little better, but it was no matter because Ellsworth’s performance was the focal point. Once I got used to her rushed, almost caffeinated, delivery; I really enjoyed it. While “lecturing” us, she rapidly changed the slides on the screen by snapping her fingers (really
loud!).

Wheel of Fortune

Late in the show, she took a different approach to these lectures. Sidekicks brought out 5 wheels with different words written on them: god’s will, greenhouse effect, food, sex, who’s to blame, etc. After spinning all the wheels, Michelle would lecture on the topic. While the spontaneity of this kind of performance should be interesting, and Ellsworth certainly pulled it off, I’m a bit tired of things like this. The whole chance-operation performance shtick gets old. I guess I’m more interested in smaller acts of spontaneity, not headliners that scream performance art art art art art!

The highlight of the dance was a long monologue that Michelle performed with the hamburger. If other parts of the dance were about the hamburger’s history and biology; this part was about the sexual hamburger: the desire for a hamburger. The choreography itself wasn’t spectacular, but the monologue delivery (and the writing) were. Also, the use of the hamburger in the dance. She danced (while speaking) for about ten minutes, caressing the hamburger in her hand, balancing the hamburger on her head, placing the hamburger on the bottom of her feet, and so on. The hamburger truly transformed.

Subsequently a plaster image was made of the hamburger. After the hamburger was ritualistically killed, it’s likeness was resurrected. While certainly the snarkiest part of the show, the whole thing was pulled off in a certain conversational style (“I used white plaster because it’s prettier”) so there was no grand “Statement” thank goodness. In all, the performance was a breath of fresh air for the Houston scene and form of slapstick irony that I could actually enjoy without feeling guilty or mean. Certainly a step up from the Joe Goode performance that I actually walked out on earlier this month. Yay Michelle! Glad you came!

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