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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Arts review: Body Parts revels in the unexpected

Body Parts is a show that defies genre, a lot like life itself. It is deeply funny, vulnerable, and at times awe-inspiring.

Body Parts is a show that revels in the unexpected, from spinning towards the ceiling on a rope ladder to crawling across the floor buried in laundry. But cloaked beneath the jokes is a vulnerable squishy centre that will stay with you long after you leave the room.

Written, choreographed, and performed by Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg, Body Parts is part dance, stand-up, and treatise on the body itself. She’s fifty, a mother, and still dancing, despite the raised eyebrows of the invisible peanut gallery she gleefully peppers throughout the show. It’s a clever move which brings the audience into her confidence, pitting us (and her) against the invisible “them”; those who ask us if we’ve gotten our body back after giving birth, the ads that follow us suggesting low carbs and miracle creams, or those whose struggles seem so much easier than our own. And this is the sweet, melancholy core lurking beneath the jokes and dance interludes. That Friendenberg (and our) battle with our bodies might not end, but maybe connection, humour, and finding joy in movement can help us cope.

The set design elements are deceptively simple, with two rope ladders and a tumult of second-hand clothing tied together in looping chains that ring the room. It’s revealed later that the clothes are the donated discards of friends who were asked to give “whatever doesn’t make them feel good,” turning the set into a metaphor with a single line of dialogue. James Proudfoot’s lighting design underscores the humour with quick flicks between drama and honesty. At the same time, the subtlety of Marc Stewart’s music keeps the emotion flowing without distracting from Friendenberg’s powerful performance.

Body Parts is a show that defies genre, much like life itself. It is deeply funny, vulnerable, and at times awe-inspiring. It’s a rare gem that sparkles with authenticity.

Body Parts, written by Tara Cheyenne Freidenberg. A Tara Cheyenne production. On stage at the Cultch (1895 Venables St, Vancouver) until May 6, 2023. Visit thecultch.com for more information.

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