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The Fruit Trilogy is certainly an experience and I use that as both a positive adjective and as a bit if a euphemism.
|The Lucille Lortel Theatre|
|Child Sex Worker & Woman in Pink Wig||Kiersey Clemons|
|Coconut woman & Woman in Yellow Wig||Liz Mikel|
The Venue: The Lucille Lortel Theatre
For those going here, know it isn’t necessarily a large theater so being in the back isn’t the worse thing. You may not see finer details but you won’t feel like the cheap seats mean you cheated yourself. Also, expect chairs as comfortable as the ones you had in high school for the padding is nearly non-existent but this theater probably has the most legroom I’ve experienced outside of movie theaters. Which, believe me, for anyone who sees live theater and is over 5’10, usually being squished length and width wise is a big issue. However, if you’re tall you’ll be fine. As for if you got some circumference, while you won’t feel squished you will feel rather close to your peer.
Pomegranate: Kiersey Clemons, Liz Mikel
If you didn’t know better, with the way the two women talked, you’d think they were fruit looking to be bought, in a Sausage Party, kind of way. However, with time, you realize what is going on is more in line with the Handmaid’s Tale. Women are treated like items at a supermarket or display cases at an old video store. It’s some type of dystopian future in which Clemons plays someone who is realistic and prefers being accurate. This is in comparison to Mikel’s character who, between optimism or trying to not have one action define a person, tries to present life has a grey area. Even as it is clear the world has gone to hell and they could be bought and sold the same way as a piece of fruit.
The Fruit Trilogy opened strong and set the right tone by showing that, while the messages were serious about women’s autonomy and how they are sexualized, this isn’t a drama. Mikel’s cheeriness as she tries to undercut what Clemons says leads to some laughs because her means of trying to cope with life is ridiculous. Then, with Clemons’ rebuttal usually leading up to her noting something is accurate that she said, there are consistent jokes up until you realize what they are talking about isn’t a game anymore.
The boxes you see their heads in, based off the way the stage looks, is so mean can see their bodies before even looking at their faces. Plus, with it being noted how rough or smelly men are, so comes the question if these boxes are holding areas where people get to try out the merchandise before buying. Really pushing the idea, especially in retrospect, how comedy maybe used to lighten things up but what you are left with is haunting. For you’re getting what the media usually sells you. Sex and subjugation of women in an entertaining way that can make you forget the circumstances they’re in.
Avocado: Kiersey Clemons
A young girl forced into sex work since 12, seemingly on her way to what could be an asylum, recounts her story to us. Be it hanging with her dad, who she once loved dearly, her brother teasing her with fish guts and blood from going to work with their dad, who was a fisherman, or her work in the sex trade. Something which seemingly was caused by her mother to pay bills and the girl who Clemons plays notes, even at 16, she hasn’t really gotten good at.
And like with Pomegranate, there is an attempt that, no matter how dark things get, there is a silver lining or bright side. With some comic relief to make it so when Clemons goes from talking about how a man would smack her with his penis or force himself on her, there is also talk about how awkward it is to fake an orgasm when you feel nothing. Which may lead to uncomfortable laughs as Clemons makes it clear that these jokes are more a means of coping than her character necessarily finding the situation funny.
Clemons is one of the few actors who, even if it requires me to go to New York to see their movie, or pay a pretty penny to see her on stage, I do it because I know she’ll bring it. However, when it comes to my knowledge of her, it isn’t in the form of dramatic roles. Nearly everything I’ve seen her in was either a comedy or something like Extant. Where, yes, there is a need to tap into human emotions like sadness, but it didn’t drive you to the point of feeling something.
However, as this child? I must admit I got teary eyed at times. In the beginning, as she talks about the container she is in and how much a gift it is to be in the dark, it’s like a slowly moving blade. The initial pinch is hearing she is a child sex worker and she digs deeper and deeper as you hear her tell her story. To the point it’s draining and because this isn’t a movie but a live performance, there is no pausing things or finding a distraction. Clemons has you where she wants you and while she never goes for the kill, the blade doesn’t get removed either. A few jokes are put into play to make you forget it is there but then she flicks it just to remind you this story was never happy. She is making light of bad situations as a means of survival.
Coconut: Liz Mikel
In the final productions, Mikel plays a woman who is using self-care as a means of crafting self-acceptance. By oiling herself up with coconut oil, working on her rough bits, she is bringing circulation to areas made callous by life and perhaps eugenics. Her dealing with being a big girl at a young age, she works that out. The need to be callous to people’s thoughts and opinions of her body and what she can offer them? Make those bits soft and tender.
But then things are turned on the audience. For the whole idea of this segment is we are in the bathroom with Mikel’s character and understanding why self-care is important to her. How it is spiritual in a way. However, as Mikel takes off her bra and exposes her breast, things are upped to the next level. With this act, she asks to be seen and acknowledged. Not as a sex object or anything which would make her a something to use. She wants to be seen as a person – fully. A challenge she presents to the whole audience in a serious manner before she lightens the mod by pushing for a bit of a dance party. Leading to some to make use of that leg room given.
Taking note of my Clemons bias, I don’t think Mikel should have finished the show. Going from Clemons energy and charisma to the likable Mikel whose message can get lost in her performance was just a bad move. I mean, not to be rude but as bored as I was, but still receiving the overall message, someone fell asleep. I’m talking, there was one good snore and then someone woke them up. But, to Mikel’s credit, she didn’t skip a beat when that happened.
However, I do have to say that I don’t think quite a few people were paying attention until the bra came off. With that, it was like an alarm clock went off. For up to that point, all she was doing was oiling up her right leg to the knee. While, in the process, talking about trauma which dealt with her life as a child, maybe something dealing with slavery, and lacking the same jokes or inflections which caused a good flow throughout earlier segments. Making her noting, before all this, people’s attention spans being short so she would try not to bore us, a bit telling.
For, to summarize my thoughts, I appreciated the message of acknowledging her as a woman, a Black woman, and looking at her beyond how she could serve you in a sexual or worker sense. That is, on top of acknowledging her existence as a person. Without looking away, questioning her, or even shaming her. What I believe the point was is beyond self-care but also the next step in human kindness and decency. Which is, not taking things in the direction of not seeing color or being politically correct but acknowledging people as they are and not making it into a thing. For, as she says, “Your witness is my liberation.”
Though, I will admit, depending on the person, being that we don’t often see women like Mizel bare-breasted often, on stage or mainstream media, it may make it so the point gets missed completely.
Collected Quote(s) & .Gifs
“Your witness is my liberation.”
- The balancing of comedic moments with an undeniable seriousness.
- The whole “Avocado” segment proved that Clemons has a Will Smith kind of charisma where she is just as capable of being charming and making you laugh as getting serious, dark, and inspiring tears to form in your eyes.
- I honestly think Mizel following Clemons was just not a good idea. You’d need someone like Gabourey Sidibe who would have matched Clemons energy. For the transition hit hard and noticeable. Making the whole first half of Coconut having little impact on your long-term
On The Fence
- The whole bare breast thing, while I get it I also think it was one of those statements that are a gamble. While it is noted Mizel didn’t want to be considered an object of worship or vessel of sin, and with this being off-broadway, so it doesn’t draw the tourist crowd, yes you understand chances and risks are going to be made. However, I gotta tell you, I was stopped by a grown Black woman after the show asking me, a 26-year-old Black male what was that about. So, with that in mind, I think the idea may lose more of the audience than regains their attention.
Overall: Mixed (Video Recording)
While I will admit bias and things like that, it will be very real my love for a particular actor or actress will translate into upping a final advisory to positive. As is the case here because, as much as this provided to me all Clemons needs is the opportunity and she can blow away audiences no matter the genre, I can’t say the same about Mizel and this is a two-person show.
Hence the mixed label for while Mizel was playing off Clemons she was perfect. However, her following Clemons giving a performance which reminds you of a sitcom drama teacher? One who regains your attention with a statement which is asked to not be seen as a statement, it takes things down a notch. For, again, while the message is clear, the delivery muddles it to the point that it seems more may take note of the shock than the conversation that there was an attempt to have.