Review: Solo Show "This Would Look Good on You" Is Impeccably Tailored

This Would Look Good on You

Written and performed by Orietta Crispino

Directed by Liza Cassidy

Presented at Theaterlab, 357 W 36th St., 3rd Floor, Manhattan, NYC

September 23-October 3, 2021

Masking and proof of vaccination required

Orietta Crispino. Photo credit: Gaia Squarci
In the white space of Theaterlab, This Would Look Good on You's racks of clothes, hanging handbags, and cubbies of neatly paired shoes hint at an upscale boutique, but the collection here is personal, in all senses of the word. The second of a trilogy of semi-autobiographical solo shows by Italian-born actor, director, artist, and Artistic Director of Theaterlab Orietta Crispino, This Would Look Good on You employs items of clothing not only as aesthetic objects in themselves, with the white space setting off the luxuriousness of many of the fabrics, but also as touchstones in an impressionistic jaunt through an individual woman's life and character.

As Crispino, playing a version of herself, unpacks storage bins and pulls designer dresses from hangers, items spark different memories and associations, simultaneously unpacking parts of her past and self. Her deceased mother, for instance, looms large in the early part of the show, as someone who gifted her many garments during her life and left her more upon her passing. The show is not, however, interested in establishing some sort of chronological life story; rather, it moves with a stream-of-consciousness fluidity among various reminiscences, effusions, and reflections. She at one point wonders where she herself is in all these clothes, and how we define ourselves and are defined by others represents one thread that runs throughout This Would Look Good on You: Did she like yellow because she liked yellow or because she liked what became familial lore about her preference? When it becomes a workplace tradition for her coworkers to give her gifts of something purple, what does it say about those relationships? Are we that readily reducible/reduced to a single "interest" or taste? (And who hasn't experienced this situation, whether with coworkers, friends, or family?) What does it suggest not only about her personal history and aspirations but also about the class coding and boundaries linked to clothing when she says that she never went anywhere that would justify wearing a couture dress that made about three-quarters of the audience gasp?
Orietta Crispino. Photo credit: Gaia Squarci
The circulation of these clothing items also shows how the gift economy creates bonds between individuals. Perhaps that inscription of bonds on clothing is one reason why This Would Look Good on You's version of Crispino, relatably, can't or doesn't want to part even with items that she admits will never fit her again; but perhaps there is also in this some resistance to admitting our own aging and the irremediable pastness of our pasts. The show's invocation, through recalling a particular production of Shakespeare's The Tempest, a play written in a period when sumptuary laws would ultimately fail to regulate who could wear sumptuous clothing and a play in which fine clothes serve as bait to derail an incipient rebellion, lends some support to this possibility. This Would Look Good on You points specifically to The Tempest's epilogue, spoken by a Prospero who is asking for applause but also handing over power and control to the audience in anticipation of his retreat from public life and focus on the end of his life. That Crispino ends the play bearing layers of clothing, some creatively repurposed, and items including an oversized purse overstuffed with work necessaries certainly invites some interesting interpretation.
Orietta Crispino. Photo credit: Gaia Squarci
It's also funny. If the thoughts and memories to which the items of clothing are tied are sometimes melancholy and sometimes nostalgic, there is always also a playfulness that only increases as the play proceeds. There is also joy taken in the clothes themselves, as sensuous material objects that she invites the audience to share her pleasure in.

Beauty may have a lot of work surrounding it, and silk may be demanding, as Crispino tells us, but her performance appears effortless. She creates an intimacy with the audience that destabilizes the line between performer and performance (not wholly unlike what Prospero's epilogue accomplishes) while fashioning a distinctive and authentic character.

So don't miss your chance to pull something out of your closet one day and experience a rush of memory: "This is what I wore to This Would Look Good on You!"

John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards


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