Let’s Talk About Sex (Education)! Review of “Miseducated” at New York City’s The Tank

misFiercely original and boldly experimental, Miseducated is New York City-based performance collective Flesh Mob’s interactive, multimedia exploration of a transgenerational hot topic: sex education. More specifically, this hypnotizing performance piece offers a unique, creative interpretation of the long-term effects that “l’éducation sexuelle” has had on all of us throughout our lives long after that bell rang and that class ended. Miseducated kicked off with Flesh Mob’s Ben Gorodetsky, one of the show’s creators and performers, asking the audience to share their own sex education memoirs. Perhaps to break the proverbial ice, Gorodetsky shared one of his own. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that Ben’s story was so deliciously (ahem…) outré that nothing the audience members could have subsequently shared could match it for shock value. Sure enough, however, the attendees in the intimate black box of The Tank were soon trading recollections about their sexual education (or, often, lack of education, such as the “abstinence teaching” often found in Catholic schools…). Some of the audience’s personal childhood/adolescent memories were quite squeamish, but others were often very funny– which prophetically set the tone for Miseducated perfectly. Shortly afterward, the cast members (which seemed to multiply exponentially as the show progressed) started reciting a series of one-liners as they made their way from their hiding spots in the audience to the stage. Those one-liners were presumably pulled from Flesh Mob’s self-proclaimed Miseducation field research. As with the pre-show confessionals, some of them were disquieting but many more were admittedly laugh-out-loud humorous (“I thought ‘homosexual’ meant you had sex inside the home.”… “I thought a ‘blow job’ meant styling your public hair.”…)

mis2Shocking disclosures and miseducated pubertal theories, however, are just the foreplay in Flesh Mob’s provocative piece. In fact, some of the most affecting and funniest moments in Miseducated involved expert wordless acting by the talented cast. Heavy on symbolism, the poignant, funny, and sometimes outright kooky show incorporates pre-recorded spoken word, haunting music, song, burlesque-style choreography, and interpretive dance into the mix.  Miseducated explores the less-than-joyous aspects of human sexuality, including but not limited to sexual guilt and shame, bisexual stereotyping, the dated idealization of “chastity”, menstruation anxiety, and more. Many of the segments are up for vast interpretation, especially by an over-analytical personality type like this reviewer. In one segment, the hirsute Gorodetsky and a blonde female performer engage in a wordless, almost primitive “mating dance” of sorts as they undress for sex in way that’s both comedic and erotic. Just what did this segment try to say? Does sex lose its appeal when it turns from playful to serious? Is sex more satisfying when it’s “primal” and basic? Are gender roles more hurtful than helpful? Another based-on-true-story segment involved the symbolism of a piece of tape that loses its ability to “attach” when it is passed around and used by too many people: It is an analogy for the aforementioned idealization of “virtue”. Expect many post-show intellectual discussions after Miseducated.

mis3Like great sex should be, Miseduated is a fine mix of the powers of the body and the mind. The impressive physical attributes of the nearly nude performers notwithstanding, Miseducated reminds us that the brain is still the greatest sexual organ… and once you free it, other body parts will follow.

mis4Miseducated: An Oral History of Sexual (mis)Education was created and directed by Ben Gorodetsky, Peekaboo Pointe, and Hilary Preston, with original music by Chanan Ben Simon and additional text/dramturgy by Emily Twines. The lighting design was by Christina Tang and stage management was by Sizzle Dizzle. Other performers included Tiger Bay, Malena Dayen, Luxe Fatale, and Edie Nightcrawler. Stay posted to www.FleshMobNYC.com for information about future performances.

(Photos by Shayhan Lewis.)

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