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Dance Place: Hyman M. Perlo Studio (Tickets available here):
Sunday, July 12 at 9:00 p.m. Sunday, July 19 at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 21 at 8:45 p.m. Thursday, July 23 at 7:00 p.m. Saturday, July 25 at 4:45 p.m.
They say: History knows Joan of Arc as a martyr and a saint. But do we really know her story? Joan steps forward to pull back the curtain in this queer, radical reclamation of identity.
Sala’s Take: Joan of Arc is angry. Which: fair. In the long annals of Justifiably Angry Women, she’s got a pretty solid case. In this stripped-down, one-woman show from Theatre Prometheus, Joan (Lizzie Parmenter), or Jeanne, in the native French she prefers, takes the reins of her own story—one that, she says, has been co-opted by men. “The same guys who burned me at the stake want to turn around and make me a public relations officer for their church,” she says. She’s not having it.
On a bare stage with no props (save for a small crate and a long, sturdy branch), Jeanne tells the story of her many betrayals: by her father, who had a dream about her strength on the battlefield, interpreted it to mean that she would become a prostitute, and tried to force her into a marriage she didn’t want; by the French army, which raised a drawbridge at a key moment in battle, leaving her stranded and easily captured by the British; and by adulthood, which, in her mind, robbed girls of their joie de vivre and turned them into worker-bee wives.
But most of all, Jeanne is resentful of the patriarchal strictures in place all around her. Men, guided by the dual notions of fraternity and chivalry, didn’t know what to make of her, as she was “neither a brother nor a helpless female.” They lorded over her—over all women—the fear of rape and the insistent idea that women’s experiences are worthless. The voices Jeanne heard (belonging to Saints Michael, Catherine, and Margaret) were mocked and derided, even though, Jeanne says, we’re all hearing voices constantly—the voices of societal pressures and obligations. Her voices, she says, were ones invented by her because she didn’t like “the selection available to women.”
Parmenter brings an anxious energy to Jeanne’s monologue, one that generally suits the material. The show is at its most affecting when Jeanne describes her interior emotional life: the guilt she felt when running away from her forced marriage also meant running away from her mother; the sadness of realizing that her only true crime was an inability to accept and return the love of another woman. At other times, the monologue can tend toward grating: Too much exposition can take away from the impact of its subtler moments. Another weakness is the narrow range of emotion on display. Seventy-five minutes of righteous indignation can be a lot to take; with no other voices to temper Jeanne’s, hers can become slightly one-dimensional. “Is there some happy ending for women that doesn’t call for our total spiritual annihilation?” Jeanne wonders at one point. I probably don’t need to tell you that the answer here is that it doesn’t seem that way.
See it if: You like your French history mashed up with some hardcore second-wave feminism.
Skip it if: You’re feeling kinda “been there, done that” on the whole Joan of Arc thing.