One of the most controversial figures in performance art, Karen Finley is bringing back her latest work, Shut Up and Love Me, for a five-week engagement at Off-Broadway's Westbeth Theatre Center, July 24-Aug. 25. Finley performed Shut Up and Love Me at NYC’s P.S. 122 in November 1999 and brought it to L.A. In May 2000.
The piece, about sex, features Finley's uniquely histrionic version of "On the Road" as she "deconstructs the Electra complex, skewers Winnie the Pooh," and offers her own version of a striptease, wherein she slathers herself with honey. Media coverage of that aspect of the show has been ubiquitous, with writers and critics generally seeing something sweetly nostalgic in the performance, rather than the angry political provocation of years past.
Described by production sources as a "humorous, bawdy, and erotic journey of psychosexual lust and dysfunctional companionship," Finley has promised to be as independent and outspoken in this show as she ever was. Production spokespersons at Spin Cycle note that this rendition of Shut Up has been re-staged and rethought, including set, costume and prop additions and changes.
Considered one of the most visceral performance artists of her generation, Finley employs theatre, performance, spoken word and visual art with her darkly humorous and arresting performances.
Synonymous with contemporary performance art, Finley is the recipient of two Obies, two Bessies, and numerous grants from the NEA and NYSCA. She has toured internationally with numerous pieces including The American Chestnut, We Keep Our Victims Ready, and A Certain Level of Denial. In 1990, after receiving continued support from the NEA, Finley became an unwilling symbol for political influences on arts funding when she, along with Tim Miller, Holly Hughes and John Fleck, sued the NEA for withdrawing grants on the grounds of indecency.
Finley, whose last book was "Pooh Unplugged," has done a spread in Playboy magazine and made numerous appearances on the televised program, "Politically Incorrect." Other past projects included 1-900 ALL KAREN, which was sponsored by Creative Time, and the Obie Award winning The Return of The Chocolate Smeared Woman.
For tickets ($20-$35) and information on Finley's Shut Up and Love Me at the Westbeth Theatre Center, 151 Bank Street, call (212) 307 4100.
— By David Lefkowitz