A dynamic duo
ONEOFUS is the production company created by wife and husband team Julie Atlas Muz and Mat Fraser, and “Beauty and the Beast” is their loveable premier production. Atlas Muz is a bodacious blonde burlesque performer living in New York City, and Fraser is one of the UK’s best known disabled TV and stage personalities. Together, they “poke fun at the absurdity of normality using a loving cup of artistic agitation,” (artists’ statement), and have a ton of fun doing so.
Gender, sexuality, and disability
While cloaked in the narrative guise of “Beauty and the Beast,” the real- life love story of Atlas Muz and Fraser is the real star of the show. The performers alternate between playing the central characters (Atlas Muz a loud-mouthed, nonconforming Beauty and Fraser a self-assured, winking Beast) and directly addressing the audience as themselves, telling anecdotes about their lives, their meeting, and their marriage. Disabled people are too often treated as asexual in our society, and must live with the constant pressure to explain their own bodies and existence, simultaneously invisible and stared at. B & B tackles these issues head on, displaying both performers’ naked bodies as acts of subversion and resistance to harmful norms.
Seamless theatrical craft
“Beauty and the Beast” uses a variety of theatrical techniques that make the audience murmur in soft delight, howl like barking dogs (yes, literally, and it’s great), and hoot with laughter.
There is gorgeous shaddow puppetry (including a beautiful moment in which we get the effect of eyelids closing and sleep descending), paper bunnies getting frisky (puppeteered by top-notch supporting actors Jess Mabel Jones and Jonny Dixon) and a hilariously erotic scene with fruits and vegetables. Several types of prosthetic hands make appearances, and each technique is mined for comedic gold without overstaying its welcome. All of this moves swiftly along under the able direction of Phelim McDermott. Excellent costumes by Kevin Pollard and sound by Ed Clarke round out the production.
Recommended for: Adults interested in performance work dealing with sexuality, gender, and disability
Not recommended for: Children and those averse to nudity
Dec 1-4, Dec 8-11, 7:30 pm/ 3pm
Museum of Contemporary Art
220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago IL
Mcachicago.org/stage or 312-397-4010
$30/ $10 students
For more information on
Mat Fraser: http://matfraser.co.uk/
Julie Atlas Muz: http://www.julieatlasmuz.com/
Susanna Hostetter is a dancer and teaching artist, exposing hundreds of Chicago Public School students a year to dance through renowned dance education organizations. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Dance from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, and is an avid attendee of Chicago theater, music, and cultural events.
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.