Review: Give Your Enthusiastic Consent to "A Date With My Wild"

A Date With My Wild

Written and directed by Alexandria Rengifo

Presented by Stage Arising at Playhouse 46 at St. Luke's

308 W 46th St., Manhattan, NYC

July 7-13, 2024

Photo courtesy of Alexandria Rengifo
Would you think that a single performer dancing to the Spice Girls could bring multiple audience members to tears? If you're leaning towards "no," you probably haven't seen Alexandria Rengifo's solo show A Date With My Wild. With engrossingly emotive storytelling and a dancer's sense of movement, Rengifo leads her audience through more than two decades of disconnection from her own body and its potential for pleasure, an experience that can be linked to a much longer history of the surveillance and policing of women's bodies. A Date With My Wild is currently part of Playhouse 46's Turn The Lights On! Festival, which presents, in collaboration with FRIGID New York and the New York City Fringe Festival, 11 shows from this year's Fringe Festival to raise funds to help the venue purchase its own lighting package (donations can also be made at this link).

Photo courtesy of Alexandria Rengifo
Rengifo's show brings us back to her childhood on Long Island in order to contextualize a momentous date on the cusp of her 30s. She marks eight years old as the age at which her unselfconscious oneness with her body and enjoyment of its physicality began to be disrupted, as cracks appeared between the desirability of women she looked up to, such as her beauty-queen mother and the aforementioned Spice Girls, and her growing sense that something was wrong with wishing to be desirable. Her growing awareness of others judging not only women such as her mother but also of herself as too wild, to borrow the show's titular term, in, say, their dancing, points both to how women are often oppressively associated with 'excess' and to how, as scholars such as Ellis Hanson have observed, children's sexuality is surveilled and repressed, doubtless with especial intensity in the case of girls. As Rengifo moves into college and graduate school, as well as to the Midwest, her commitment to "self-editing" and to denying physical pleasures solidifies, bolstered by internalized patriarchal norms, even as it is challenged by her new intellectual environment, until her separation from her "wild" reaches a crisis point one night when she takes the rare step of asking a man over to her apartment for a date.

Alongside an exploration of how ways of being that are taken on willingly and seen as healthy can derive from and act as part of a structure of repression, there emerge related themes, such as the importance of matriarchal bonds and of telling one's own story. Rengifo holds the stage clad in red, a color traditionally associated with the sort of female sensuality that is at once commodified and subject to containment (sensuality is not limited to sexuality, but linked to it in patriarchal binaries that oppose female bodiliness to male reason, a corporeal spectrum acknowledged in the show's climax). Injecting doses of humor, Rengifo excels at embodying (pun intended) the emotional twists and turns of her journey, aided by small but effective costuming and lighting changes on a mostly bare stage. While the systems that precipitated that journey cling to dominance, the show's conclusion pays tribute to freedom and, more specifically, to Rengifo's eight-year-old self, and we can all, at least, take pleasure in that.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards


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