Ann Liv Young, Snow White

The eyes have it.  Ann Liv Young’s blaze with an intimidating mixture of superiority, petulance, and a danger that telegraphs a warning: can you handle it/me?  It’s a look to wither a lesser mortal: entering The Kitchen’s performance space I felt it immediately, an unerring gaze that burned a hole in the soul of every patron as they took their places before the start of Snow White, her new exercise in scorn and rampage.  Nothing dispels their taunting disquiet—not Thursday’s game-for-anything audience, or the white leotards worn by her and  cohorts Liz Santoro and Michael Guerraro, getups that made their Ruben-esque figures look like extras from Woody Allen’s Sleeper.

That visual banana peel gets subverted with the crashing chords of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal; under lights full up on a stark white set ringed with a fringed curtain, the company shamelessly tears into what will be the first of many karaoke moments.  That opening also establishes one of the myriad themes tentacling from its title: the supposition that everything gets exposed when placed against a neutral canvas—audience (the house lights never go down) and performer are rendered equally naked and exposed.

The world that unfolds is irrefutably, subversively adult (audience be warned: along with the actors’ nudity, the pregnant Liv Young bestrides a dildo—though tellingly she’s on top), but there’s no denying the furious sense of play informing every flip of Young’s Rapunzel-length brown mane.   One can’t help but laugh as we witness these grownups put on the kind of dress-up pageant little children embark on with the same go-for-broke stakes, but here such role-playing makes salient points about the way pop culture informs burgeoning sexuality (most of the dancing quotes MTV, and the salacious, hoochie-mama stereotypes assayed by women in music videos), and especially, the implicit propaganda contained in such rite-of-passage fairy tales like Snow White.

Liv Young’s heroine plays against its creator’s Southern roots, a dominatrix who has no interest in feminine submission or propriety.  Control is all; one moment she’s brandishing stock French dialogue and a Reynolds-wrapped sword in a duel with her prince (Santoro), the next, she might recline Cleopatra-style as she shrieks an 80s power-ballad.  In a piece that risks spurts of boredom as it careens from one outlandish moment to the next, even backstage is onstage, and Young drives its machinations too, barking out counts, sound cues, flinging suddenly inconvenient water bottles and costumes.  In a hilarious bit, she acts and stage-manages some cascading snow tossed by the hapless Guerraro at the climax of a romantic duet; her impatient “run, run, run” will remind you of every child’s nightmare—the female playmate who orders the other kids around like some impervious Queen of a land full of incompetents.   Good thing the budget didn’t allow for dwarves; this Snow White leaves no doubt that, by evening’s end, those adorable gnomes would be