Botox Angels

NEW YORK -- From Dood Paard ("Dead Horse") Theatre in Amsterdam comes "Botox Angels," a play about militant female sexuality which is abundant in sultry dialogue, jealousy and emotional violence. Three clownish lesbian characters, named Swift, Cocky and Deedee, negotiate shifting power relationships, juggle dildos and fake breasts, play dress-up games and cross swords about men, breast reductions, philosphy versus banality and emotion versus rationality. Written by Rob de Graaf, translated into English by Paul Evans, it is performed by Ellen Goemans, Janneke Remmers and Manja Topper, all from Holland. La MaMa presents the work's American premiere June 25 to 28, coinciding with Gay Pride Weekend.

"Botox Angels" gets a unique style from the rough mind games among its three protagonists and a tactical/emotional directness that is characteristic of the Dutch. Its characters are women for whom being lesbian is, at least partially, a political choice. They don't want to hide their beauty or their sexuality and they want to be seen as attractive adult girls. The title appropriates the name of a cosmetic surgery drug to suggest women's longing to inspire desire perpetually. For Swift, Cocky and Deedee, for whom sex is a very aggressive game, Botox might also be a warrior's creed: even if they are dykes, they still can be as beautiful and attractive as a magazine cover model. Imagine "Mean Girls" on steroids with middle-aged lesbian clowns.

The play opens with a three-way orgy in which Deedee, the outsider, complains to Cocky, the Queen Bee and Swift, the Wannabe, of being excluded. The scene pivots into a mock interview in which their urges are intellectualized into thoughtful dialogues about social forces, giant emotions, philosophical constructs and feminism with a great big "F." Throughout the rest of the play, the cast alternates between playing Swift, Cocky and Deedee and playing a trio of more realistic characters bearing the actresses' own names. This adds a certain transparency to the performance. Manja, Ellen and Janneke may be real people, but their so-called "real questions" are just as fake as any dialogue between two clowns, so the person being interviewed probably resembles her clown character more than anything she is like in real life. The dikes are breaking for these dykes and a tide of feminism is going to wash over all of us. As they wrangle about the place of women in society, and how to escape it, we learn that semen is poison to Cocky and Deedee, but Swift misses a man between her legs once in a while. Their trenchant discussions on female sexuality bring us up front and personal with just about everything about these Botox Angels, who are very tough women, as is their comedy.

Along the way, the actresses re-enact some famous performances by feminist performers: "Semiotics of the Kitchen" by Martha Rosler, "Artist must be Beautiful" by Marina Abramovic and "Cut Piece" by Yoko Ono.

Dood Paard is the performance ensemble of Kuno Bakker, Gillis Biesheuvel, Raymond Querido, ThomasRoy√© and Manja Topper. The name Dood Paard ("Dead Horse," in Dutch) is lifted from a poem by the Dutch poet Gerrit Achterberg and embodies the double vision of the company itself: the darkness represented by death, in contrast with the bright vitality and life represented by a horse. The group was founded in 1993 when its members were about to graduate from the Academy of Dramatic Art in Arnhem. Integral to its philosophy was a commitment to operate as a collective with no single voice of authority. More than two decades later, that idea still reigns with company decisions made through discussion among its members, which include actors, directors and technicians. The company regards the world from a critical stance, but one infected with good humor and an optimistic belief that man’s intellect and creativity can transcend tragedy.

The company works as a collective with no director, stage manager, set designer or dramaturge. Its members make all artistic decisions. Engagement is key to the company culture; sets are built on stage as each show unfolds, inviting the audience to visually engage in the process. All of its themes are drawn from issues of current concern. The troupe's past and present works include "Freetown" and "Botox Angels" by Rob de Graaf, "Answer Me" by Gerardjan Rijnders, "Othello" by Shakespeare, "Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?" by Albee and "Art" byYasmina Reza. Dood Paard performs regularly in the Netherlands and Belgium and often at theatres and festivals in Europe, the U.S. andCanada. It made its La MaMa debut in 2012 with "Stock Xenophobia," a two-week succession of three different performances: "Freetown," an aggressive comedy about European women traveling to an African beach for leisure and willing black men, Shakespeare's "Othello" by two actors and "Answer Me," a performance made only of questions. The company appeared at New York's Guggenheim in 2011 with "REIGEN ad lib," a verbatim and contemporary version of Arthur Schnitzler’s scandalous play "Der Reigen" (Hands Around, 1897). The troupe first came to New York with "medEia" at PS122 in 2007.

Choreography is by Roy Peters. Lighting design is by Prem Scholte Albers. Sound design is by Krzysztof W. Burdzy. Costume design is by Carmen Schabracq.


June 25 to 28, 2015

La MaMa E.T.C. (Ellen Stewart Theatre), 66 East 4th Street (2nd Floor)

Presented by La MaMa E.T.C.

Thur-Sat at 8:00, matinees Sat at 3:00 and Sun at 4:00.

$25 gen. Adm., $20 seniors and students.

Ten $10 tickets will be available for every performance on a first-come, first-served basis.

Box office (646) 430-5374, www.lamama.org

Show's website: www.botoxangels.com

Running time 75 minutes.

Photo Courtesy Of: Sanne Peper