Presented by Company One Theatre
Hosted by (and Featuring a Performance By) Neon Calypso
Poetry by Nico Pang
“Permission” Written by Kirsten Greenidge
Directed by Josh Glenn-Kayden
Performed by Tatiana Isabel Gil & Hayley Spivey
Technical Production by Mads Massey
Review by Chloé Cunha
YOUTUBE — Pride – and just about everything else – may have been canceled this year, but leave it to the queer community to rally anyway and keep the show going. “Pride Marches On” is a digital showcase of a few different art forms, featuring poetry from Nico Pang, a play by Kirsten Greenidge, and a drag performance from Neon Calypso, who doubles as host for the show. It’s a short, fun and politically engaging piece of media for anyone who needs a break from their Netflix binge (be honest, you’re probably getting into some obscure territory by now anyway).
The show opens on host Neon Calypso, who acts as a thread through the various acts. With a digital show, each performer is likely more beholden to their own personal resources rather than those offered at a traditional theater, so set design and dressing may be more limited. For that reason, her aesthetic choices were all the more appreciated. She takes special care to dress up the entire frame of the screen, as well as herself, in fun vibrant hues. Behind her she has a bright green patterned cloth as a backdrop, which clashes playfully with her pink houndstooth outfit.
Next, Nico Pang performs an original poem. Jumping off a Mitski lyric, they incorporate imagery of burning and rebirth as they examine their trans identity and specifically the act of renaming oneself. Delivery was straightforward and to the point, allowing viewers to focus on their words. Of note, the following passage stuck out to me: “maybe I’m resilient enough to survive my own arson / a forest burns down and a wildflower starts to bloom.”
The largest portion of the show is Greenidge’s play “Permission,” a short playful vignette which on its surface is a Zoom call between two friends, Lisetta (Tatiana Isabel Gil) and Camari (Hayley Spivey) running a juice truck business together. Really, it’s about staying true to yourself despite pressures to conform to a capitalist, white (and straight) business hegemony: Lisetta thinks they need to conform, and Camari disagrees.
It’s a lot to pack in a short Zoom call, and it doesn’t always work– there is some awkwardness in the opening dialogue especially that feels a bit stilted, beyond the usual buffering of a video meeting. However as the exchange continues, the rhythm between the two actors picks up, and they both develop some compelling tit for tat. Particularly effective is the symbolism surrounding Lisetta’s nose ring; a less attentive friend may not have even noticed its absence, but for Camari this represents an important concession of Lisetta’s queer identity. Here Spivey’s passion translates well on screen, as does Gil’s resignation. Without giving it away, the final moment between them is sweet, subtle, and satisfying.
Calypso’s performance, the final portion of the show, is most explicit in its political message, and most exciting in my opinion. The act starts with a lipsync of Porsha O’s excellent poem “Capitalism”and transitions into a Rihanna lipsync. Again Calypso gets creative with the her aesthetics, employing multiple lighting shifts that transform the colors on screen. Her green costume becomes neon turquoise, or pink, and the effect on her skin is interesting as well, as she shimmers a deep blue at times. This along with many different kaleidoscopic effects give the performance a psychedelic feel: capitalism is a trip, and we’re all along for the ride.
This final statement perhaps best summarizes the show. It’s clear a lot of thought went into the production as a whole, and its reason for being. Frequently between segments we are reminded of various resources and organizations fighting for social justice, and most specifically Black queer and trans liberation. This grounds the performance in the urgency of our current political moment. The message is clear: enjoy the show, but consider the larger context of queer art. Pride was a riot, have some popcorn but open your wallet when you’re done.