Pull Your Sexuality Out of the Swamp in One Easy Spell
|t & t Productions presents|
|Mami, Where’d My O Go?|
|Written and Performed by Tosha Fowler
Directed by Victoria (toy) Delorio
at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood (map)
through July 21st | tickets: $13-$18 | more info
reviewed by Paige Listerud
Tosha Fowler’s autobiographical one-woman show, Mami, Where’d My O Go?, is billed as a saucy, heaping helping of Southern decadence—sexy and supernatural, as in the mode of “True Blood” and touchingly, inoffensively feminist, just like “Steel Magnolias.” But one wonders if this style of advertising might just do t & t Productions’ offering at Lifeline Theatre a tremendous disservice.
Yes, it’s a comedy about a young, modern Southern woman trying to get back life’s zest, lost with her inability to orgasm for four years. Now, after failed attempts in therapy, getting her O back requires invoking the African Goddess Mami Wata back at her family home in the swamp where she grew up. Nevertheless, Fowler roots her comedy in pains that run deeper than anything “True Blood” or “Steel Magnolias” ever touches. More than sexiness or spells, this is what defines Fowler’s work and makes it a far gutsier emotional sojourn for the proper Southern lady.
Directed by Victoria (toy) Delorio, Mami, Where’d My O Go? is about loss–and we’re not just talking the pleasures of the bedroom here. Caroline, a successful young Southerner, has pulled herself out of poverty and ignorance and moved on, at least physically, from her fractured family past. However, the loss of Grandma, who raised her, unanswered questions about her father, the crucifying sadness of her mother’s unloved existence—as well as Mom’s drug-induced death–pulls Caroline back to the pain she thought she could leave behind. Fowler diffuses the heaviness of Caroline’s losses by generously buffeting them with jokes about the old Piggly Wiggly, describing her former O’s as “bustin’ can o’ bisquits orgasms,” and sagely timed humor like, “Orgasms and daddies have nothing to do with each other—or, that’s been illegal in Georgia for quite some time now.”
The psychological bones of Fowler’s work are solid and her emotional depth in performance simply goes balls to the wall. Her invocation of Mami Wata as part of Caroline’s emotional/sexual healing is nothing less than inspired. Fowler morphs quickly and easily between Caroline, her mother, and Irma DeVoe, the neighborhood priestess who guides the proceedings, giving a variety of voices to Southern women’s experience.
All this charmingly funny, fantastically trippy one-act needs now is a strong editorial hand. Moving from character to character, from past shame to present day emotional need, still gets a little rambling and out of control. Also, at her mother’s funeral, Caroline tries to pour her cremated ashes into the swamp, managing only to get the ash all over her and the other family mourners. While this moment may indeed be autobiographical it is also, unfortunately, one that has been beaten to death in movies and late night comedy sketches. It should either be revamped for greater originality or discarded altogether.
Fowler’s play is like many from a new generation of Southern writers: crawling tooth and nail out of dire straits, cleaning oneself up to look like the rest of us shiny, happy Americans, yet still feeling tied to the old folks at home—the old folks with all their homey, backward, cherished and toxically shameful ways. Unfortunately one really can’t go home again, especially Caroline. But hopefully some pulled chicken, greens, creamed corn, and peach ambrosia will bring on the Goddess who can both hurt and heal you.
Tosha Fowler (actress/writer/producer)
toy Delorio (director/producer)
Brae Singleton (stage manager)
Brendan Boston (scenic designer)
Jen Seleznow (TD/carpenter)
Elizabeth Patterson (lighting design)
Nikki Lewis (marketing/graphic design)
Martell Stroup (web design/support)
Megan Kohl (public relations)
Cristina DeRisi (sound design)
Sam Umstead (costume design)
Mel Mrochinski (marketing writer)
nk Mooneyham (photographer)