The Blue-Bearded Lady is a performance in Anywhere Fest that somehow manages to be even more sexually alluring than The Touch Industry, which was set in an actual strip club. In contrast to the latter, The Blue-Bearded Lady reserves itself to a performance space in the Powerhouse—not particularly site-specific, but a place with a fitting enough vibe given the show’s old-style costuming aesthetic. And aside from this strange Victorian-era costume on stilts, the first two things I remember most from when the lights went down were Pipi-Ayesha Evans’s physicality, and the well-curated soundtrack (featuring Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mount Zion)—both of which were factors that instantly built my expectations for the performance, given that it had been created by someone whose tastes matched mine.
So it was a shame then that I found myself somewhat let down by the bulk of the performance. While the movement is all very impressive, and the staging successful in creating every tone from tragic to lustful—the core narrative leaves something to be desired. Even though there isn’t meant to be a linear structure, the symbols that run throughout struggle to remain consistent, and even though the little vocal vignettes of narrative are all brought together at the end of the performance by Evans, it’s done shakily, and it left me struggling to put everything together in any sensical way. The symbols simply aren’t portrayed with enough prominence, and the vocal and physical aspects too often fail to line up, very rarely occurring simultaneously.
And this disconnect is problematic—the show at its core begins to feel incongruous because of the separation between dialogue and movement. It seems clear that Evans has a lot of herself invested in this show, and all of the content feels like it’s come from somewhere personal—from the sexual- to the childhood-based content, it all felt special and important—but none of it really came together, and the show was left in my mind as a mere series of disjointed vignettes loosely strung together by tiny tidbits of narration. And to be fair to the production, most of the segments work individually, and the show is certainly enjoyable, even if, when it’s all over, it doesn’t feel like it’s added up to much.