Something for Everyone, Even Cannibals, at the Philadelphia Fringe

Jarboe has long believed that she ate Rose, but as she sings toward the end of the show, it “Turns out Rose ate me.”

Produced by the Bearded Ladies Cabaret, with Emily Schreiner, as part of a rolling world premiere, and directed by MK Tuomanen, “Rose” is still in bud. A show about gender cannibals, adorned by tender, frisky music composed and performed by Emily Bate, Daniel de Jesús, Pax Ressler, Be Steadwell and Jarboe seems original enough. And Jarboe is an appealing performer. But as she acknowledges, the coming-out story is already a cliché. While certain moments are wholly unique, like Jarboe’s repurposing of a hockey jersey as a ball gown, others borrow overtly from artists like John Cameron Mitchell and Taylor Mac. The show seems to end twice before it actually concludes with a call-and-response section, which is then followed by a medley of covers: “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “Kiss From a Rose.” Some love, some pruning, and “Rose” should bloom.

After so much fruit, money and flowers, so much wanting, so much appetite, it was restful to retreat into “Rhythm Bath.” A performance installation created by the choreographer Susan Marshall and the set designer Mimi Lien in conjunction with Temple University’s Institute on Disabilities, the dance piece is staged on an upper floor of Christ Church Neighborhood House. The ceiling is covered in white parachute fabric, which breathes in and out. Through holes in the fabric, glimpses of feathery, cobweb-like material can be seen, some of it lit with fiber optic filaments.

The afternoon show I attended was a relaxed performance, as are all of their performances, designed for both neurotypical and neurodiverse audiences. The seating was flexible, the lighting (Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew) subdued and the sound (Dan Trueman and Jason Treuting, who also composed the music) kept to a reasonable volume. Spectators who found it too much could retreat to a darker room with a giant bean bag. That afternoon, as 10 dancers performed elegant versions of pedestrian movement — walking, standing, leaning — I saw two young women in the audience stand up and join in. Another spectator faced the wall. A fourth watched while wearing headphones and dark glasses. All seemed to be enjoying themselves.

In contrast with the excesses of the other shows, this performance was simple, even restrained. The mood was meditative. It was, in its quiet way, the most nourishing thing I saw.

Philadelphia Fringe

Through Sept. 24 at sites around the city;


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