Review: Green Porno (Luminato)

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Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno Comes To Life On The Toronto Stage

More than once, in conversations about Susan Sarandon, I’ve quipped: “I would pay money to watch her make oatmeal, and if she ate it when she was finished I’d pay double.” It’s my way of saying that I find her so compelling that anything she chooses to perform becomes interesting and stylish. Last night, watching Isabella Rossellini talk at length about biology and animal reproduction, I discovered within myself a sudden new appreciation for material that I ignored during grade 10 biology class (which I’m sure we all would have aced if Ms. Rossellini had been teaching it). If you have seen the 18 episodes of Green Porno already, you should know that there’s not much new material in this Luminato show. But, if you like listening to Isabella Rossellini (and who’s kidding who, there’s a great deal of pleasure in that) you will want to be in the theatre for this.

Rossellini arrives on stage the picture of a lady professor, in an neck to ankle black dress with, yes, three strands of pearls and a pair of delicately nerdy spectacles. By the end of the show, she will have transitioned into a man and become a hamster, but her charm and gentility come through no matter what gender or species. Rossellini even plays G-d, questioning the animals and learning that heterosexuality and monogamy are just two ideas among many.

It’s a show that really celebrates the diversity of reproduction; sexual reproduction, hermaphroditic sex, asexual reproduction, spermatechs, transsexuals, parasitic husbands, sneaky males, polyandry and more. While she cautioned us at the beginning that the evening was unlikely to end in a giant orgy, the videos can be quite explicit. Rossellini showed clips from her Green Porno, Seduce Me, and Mammas series, including her as a snail, a duck, and a hamster, and discusses many other animals.

It’s not all films though, there’s live action too. She stuffs her mouth with grape tomatoes to simulate cichlid fish’s mouth-breeding practices. The audience roared with laughter as the puppet of a male fish squirted her mouth with sperm. Rossellini has clearly moved beyond the stage of life where she worries about looking foolish, if it ever concerned her at all, and her cheerful willingness to be ridiculous gives the show a wild edge of fun. It’s that edge, combined with her undeniably compelling stage presence, that rescues this piece from the realm of the bewildering and lands it squarely in the “strangely satisfying” instead.

I do wish, however, that the show felt a bit more finished. Rossellini reads from notes throughout, and at several points seemed to lose her place and have moments of being flustered. The sound was very uneven – technically, it felt more like a dress rehearsal than an opening night – and there was just generally a little roughness to the proceedings.

 That said, by the end of the show, the stage was littered with the detritus of all manner of animal, bird and insect reproduction, and the audience clearly felt satisfied. The elderly woman who sat two seats over from me commented on the way our how much she had enjoyed the show, and I thought: where else could an octogenarian in pearls watch another older woman (also in pearls) talking about penises and vaginas and simulating sex all evening and come away feeling cultured? That’s a feat in and of itself, and Rossellini and her team – for whom I expect that was the aim all along – should be proud.

Details

  • Green Porno plays until June 8th at The Winter Garden Theatre, 189 Yonge Street
  • Shows the 6/7 at 8pm and 6/8 at 2pm
  • Tickets range in price from $45 to $85 and can be had online or by phone at 416-368-4TIX

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