Earth Mothers in Tutus

Loving the Earth takes on new meaning in the political cabaret, Dirty Sexecology, in a pre-tour run at Vienna’s Kosmos Theater

Sprinkle and Stephens make the earth sexy | Photo: courtesy of Dirty Sexecology

It is not every day that one gets to see two naked, middle-aged women making love in a heap of earth. For this reason alone it was worth seeing Dirty Sexecology or 25 Ways to Make Love to the Earth by Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens which played in Vienna’s Kosmos Theater in March and is expected back next season.

There was something curiously powerful and atavistic about seeing Annie Sprinkle (who might have been the original model for The Venus of Willendorf) wallowing in the soil. Both this former porn star and hooker with a PhD, and Elizabeth Stephens, a professor and performance artist from the University of California at Santa Cruz, are engaging, even charming, women with fine senses of humor and it was enjoyable to spend time with them.

Still, the results were mixed. The central idea behind the show – making the earth sexy – is a good one; nevertheless Sprinkle, Stephens and the director Patty Gallagher failed, ultimately, to “milk” the topic’s full potential. Above all: the quality of the gags was, to say the least, uneven and not enough thought had been given to structure.  The switches in mood were at times too radical while the “climax” was somewhat disappointing. The audience was sent home happy, but without a sense of release.

The conceit of the evening being a conference started off well and allowed language games to be played with new words, such as terraphilia, aerophilia, pyrophilia, and aquaphilia but this conceit was soon abandoned and not really replaced.

Involving the audience is not always easy in Vienna, but the audience at the Kosmos was more responsive than most. Each person was given a small bag containing lavender, a feather and an apricot. This was a fun idea and helped establish a rapport, but it was not enough to wow them.

Best of all was the gag involving the two mounds of earth molded in the shape of two breasts, each topped with a petunia. The attempts by both performers to chat them up with lines like: “Have we met before?” or “What did you say your name was?” were highly amusing. Once they got around to actually seducing the flowers the scene was hilarious.

Sadly not all the gags worked so well, and the one in which both performers sat on stage and recalled their “first times” fell flat.  This sequence among others may need straightening out before the show moves on.

Also problematic was the transition from when Elizabeth Stephens sings angrily about the “rape” and “scalping” of the Appalachians to Annie Sprinkle’s dance, in which she divests herself of her blue tutu, green top, blue ribbons, high heels, necklace and artificial flower in her red hair. Not only was there a disharmony between the Stephens’ song and the Sprinkle’s music that followed, but the overlap led to one canceling the other out. The switch in mood was simply too radical. It might well be true that the Appalachians are being treated in a scandalous fashion, but in show business tone and timing is everything. And here the tone was too serious and the timing was false. What was needed were two or three good gags or song and dance numbers (perhaps performed by the talented and beautiful Emma?), which could have led up to the finale in a logical fashion.

Nevertheless a good time was had by most of the predominantly female audience, and an important theme had found a new and funny approach.

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