Review: A Happy Triad: You, FRIGID, and "How to Be an Ethical Slut"

How to Be an Ethical Slut

Written and performed by Brooke McCarthy

Presented by FRIGID New York at UNDER St. Marks

94 St. Marks Place, Manhattan, NYC

February 18-27, 2023

Brooke McCarthy. Photo credit: Michael Rosas
Whatever our advances in how we conceive of gender and sexuality, heteronormativity stubbornly refuses to relinquish its patriarchal grip on our culture - appropriately, perhaps, for an ownership-based model of relationships. But other, better alternatives have at least gained a bit of mainstream ground in recent years, and How to Be an Ethical Slut charts its course through these sometimes choppy but ultimately liberatory waters. Written and performed by Brooke McCarthy and presented as part of the 17th annual FRIGID Fringe festival, the award-winning How to Be an Ethical Slut offers a guided tour through stages of slutdom leading to its ethical incarnation. An honest, often hilarious mix of solo show and cabaret, How to Be an Ethical Slut includes a few surprising reveals along the way, including a climactic one that doubles as an important comment on how we should think about ethical non-monogamy.

Drawing on some autobiographical elements, McCarthy assumes the role of the allusively named Blake Valentini, who is presenting her cabaret show, How to Be an Ethical Slut, at the Starlight Cabaret. Valentini recounts her formative personal, romantic, and sexual journey, divided up into beginning with an endpoint: the dissolution of her existing relationship at the end of college. She develops an interest in a guy named Guy, an older man who attends her shows (his shoes help: Blake has strong ideas about men's footwear, and Guy meets her standards where her college boyfriend did not). As a few dates become something more, Blake is exposed to and explores new, non-heteronormative (and ultimately transformative) ways of expressing and experiencing love and sexuality.
Brooke McCarthy. Photo credit: Michael Rosas
Through narrative, original lyrics, and covers of classic songs, Valentini touches on aspects of her path to being an ethical slut that range from an unexpected discussion of STI results to the centrality to polyamory of open communication and mutual agreement upon the rules, touching moments of error and growth, of disappointment and joy. (We also appreciated learning the neologism "threelationship.") McCarthy brings a great voice and an infectious energy to Valentini's story, and her choreography effectively and often humorously punctuates her musical numbers. Not only is How to Be an Ethical Slut flat out fun, but you might even find yourself feeling inspired (or, conversely, seen).

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards

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