Bonnie Gabel reflects on a performance at the Theatre at St. Claude that challenges our perceptions of drag.
The Theatre at St. Claude
2240 St. Claude Avenue
April 13–16, 2016
Creep Cuts, which premiered at this month’s Forge Microfest, is a post-punk, post-drag, cabaret dream sequence—part live-action Internet meme, part electronic dance party, part queer coming-of-age tale. Through a series of narrative vignettes and musical numbers, Mz. Asa Metric (Evan Spigelman) and her imaginary friend, Mqr. En Between (Dylan Hunter), explore a realm of imagination, loneliness, and trash.
Unlike traditional performances, Creep Cuts aims to deconstruct theatrical tropes instead of telling a particular story. In one particularly virtuosic moment, Metric does a lip-synched routine as Between offers a narration of her gestures—declaring, for example, stage directions like “reaches hand out to bird.” Later, Between gives a heartfelt soliloquy about the difficulties of being a figment of someone else’s imagination. Creep Cuts is billed as drag, but Metric starts the performance naked. She does her face onstage and wears a single patch of long purple hair rather than a conventional wig. She is not trying to directly impersonate any one vision of femininity. Instead, she demands that we accept a more fluid understanding of gender by challenging our conceptions of what a woman is and can be.
Furthermore, the performance breaks down the delineation between public and private, alternating seamlessly between the two. Metric speaks directly to the audience, as is traditional in drag, but she still inhabits an intimate space, one where she gets dressed, stops to take phone calls, and talks with Between. The whole stage is Metric’s boudoir; the theater is her bedroom. She seems to be asking each of us: Who are we when no one is looking? Do we ever really stop performing, even if only for our imaginary friend?