“Back to the grind. Literally.” So begins a shift for five young women, dancing for a living. Set in the dressing room of a strip club, STRIPPED OF COMMON SENSE is staged in the back room of a Northeast Philly strip club—this is the kind of site-specific drama that makes the Fringe such a joyful fixture on the theater calendar. Melissa “Bang Bang” Forgione brings a knowing sexuality (honed in her work as a burlesque dancer) to Chloe, a stripper whose heart is in the theater but who bonds with her fellow workers over the unique stresses of their work. The pay is good, but the women need the money or else they wouldn’t be doing this job; the customers are perverts, obviously (“I just did this dance for a creep.” “They’re all creeps.”); other women look down on the work (“do any of you grasp how the rest of the world sees us?”); the dating scene is hell (First week: excited “I’m banging a stripper”; second week: “You work weird hours”; third week: “How come you don’t dress like that for me”; fourth week: “Why don’t you get a new job.”) Alcohol, marijuana, other drugs: most of the women need something to stay detached and get through the shift. Only Chloe abstains, “no longer wearing her crown”, but how long can she hold out?
STRIPPED never really finds a dramatic arc as a one-act, but it gives an insightful and engaging look behind the scenes of one of the most popular but dramatically under-considered forms of entertainment. The cast comfortably and unself-consciously portray the individualized characters crafted by writers Rebecca Hayes and Maddie Bender. Gina Martino’s open vulnerability is especially affecting. [DayDreams] September 20-28, 2013, fringearts.ticketleap.com/stripped-of-common-sense.