gloopiness = hey girl Feb 1, 2008

by Bret

If Hey Girl! weren't skillfully executed, it would be painfully trite. A young woman extricated herself from an oozing fluid (in which is embedded a molted human skin), looked at herself in a mirror, sobbed, put on lipstick, poured perfume on a sword...if this had been produced cheaply, it would be freshman college feminism. But the fluid was this amazing viscous gloop that, even after 75 minutes, was still flowing off of the table; the way the lighting revealed the gloop, and the actress embedded in it, manipulated my attention with consummate skill. The mirror reflected a light that created an almost physical shimmering through a haze that blanketed the stage. The sword seemed to be about five feet long and was heated so that it burned or melted everything that touched it. The entire show was full of luscious and visually entrancing textures and nuances. I spent the entire show hoping that it would become something more than a series of striking symbols that grabbed my attention, but it never did. It didn't help that, after each element was introduced, it was discarded; nothing accumulated, nothing resonated off of anything else. (And this is not because it's non-linear or some other excuse; visually-based non-linear work needs to build or expand just as much as text-based or linear storylines does, it just uses different tools and tropes to do it.) Every moment was lovingly shaped, but nothing developed out of them, they simply segued to the next image. The sword, which appeared early on, returned later...but when it did, it hadn't acquired any new weight or significance. It was just the sword we saw earlier, which was meant to evoke Joan of Arc and/or patriarchy in a vague, generic way. It also didn't help that Hey Girl! was almost wholly humorless and ponderously paced. The one laugh that erupted on Thursday night was when the central actress whispered, after wearing a blanket with a burnt X on it around her shoulders like a cape, "I hate symbols". We laughed because the show was nothing but symbols; none of these objects was grounded in any kind of created reality or narrative that would make them concrete things, things to which we might have some specific relationship, instead of abstractions. But I can't tell if the show's creator is making a joke or if he's being sincere. Nothing else in the evening had any sense of irony or self-deprecation. Late in the show, I began to look at the show as if it were a 1970s science fiction movie about the birth and indoctrination of a cybernetic organism, and that made Hey Girl! much more engaging. Taking it out of the realm of "important art" -- and boy did this work scream "important" in the worst way -- and into the realm of Logan's Run and Zardoz allowed me to just savor the fantastically designed surfaces of it all. Despite my frustrations with Hey Girl!, I recommend it, because there are at least a half-dozen visually beautiful moments that I'm glad I saw. And at any moment, if you're bored (and there were quite a few occasions when I was), you can always watch that fantastic gloop. It never stopped being hypnotically gloopy. I could have watched it for hours. --Bret Fetzer