Maya Soto and Nico Tower’s Beautiful Carcass—which has its final run this weekend—is anything but silent. In this hybrid dance and theatre performance, the open wounds of misogyny, the patriarchy, sexism, discrimination, harassment, and the other demons of intersectional womanhood don’t just bleed, but are given a voice. By the show’s end, it is a full-throated roar.
We are guided through the struggles and triumphs of the female experience by a circus troupe of “creatures” and “beasts,” who never fail to smile politely on command as they are all introduced by a cotton-candy-headed ringmaster. This character wears many demented hats, to say the least, whether a boastful trainer, whispering tormentor, Rod Sterling-esque narrator, or tender performer.
This could have easily turned into a repetitive reminder of the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a woman. Thankfully, there was more than one kind of story, and one kind of woman, represented in Beautiful Carcass, and they are portrayed with vulnerability and grace. (Trans women aren't represented, but Towers and Soto addressed the centering of the experiences of cis women in the show’s introduction, and acknowledged their “trans sisters,” who they hope also can identify with the show’s narratives.)
I was instantly refreshed by the dimensions of intersectionality that took center stage: we hear Spanish and Tibetan intermingled with English, we see the white-hot rage from anti-black beauty standards and institutional racism, and we witness a self-identified sick and disabled dancer—Angel “Moonyeka” Alviar—take up a traditionally able-bodied space on her own terms.
On the flip side, this show is also about the grotesque, the ridiculous and painful, the tragicomedy of sitting on the toilet and listening to the 'drip drip drip' of menstrual blood that suddenly, and unexpectedly, becomes a cramping, rushing torrent—which is depicted on-stage with plenty of red tulle. There are moments where, honestly, it felt like I had been thrown into a crossover episode of American Horror Story that was both Freakshow and Asylum, and I LOVED it because being a woman can most definitely feel that freaky and terrifying.
The 90 minutes were entirely dedicated to actually listening to women without interrupting. Whether we were laughing at the cheeky baby doll custodian with a matching mane of bleach-blonde hair trying to sweep her minions offstage, or listening to testimonies of the painful lessons women have to learn to survive, we were listening—even the cis white dudes. (One of them left a very nice note that was turned right-side-up on the comments table.)
The powerful, charged movements of Angel “Moonyeka” Alviar, Rebecca Barney, Meghan Courtney, Kaitlyn Dye (KJ), Adriana Hernandez, Emma Hreljanovic, Noelle Price, Elizabeth Sugawara, and Tshedzom Tinghkye breathe life into a stage that witnesses both women’s devastation by social structures, and their individual determinations to survive them. But, what would I know? I’m just a girl.
Beautiful Creatures runs through this Sunday at Cornish Playhouse.