PINK PUNCH (Art Church): Rosemary’s baby shower—one hell of a weird ride

Kristen. Photo by Cara Blouin.
Kristen Norine in PINK PUNCH. Photo by Cara Blouin.

If the ninth circle of hell decided to host a baby shower, it would resemble something like PINK PUNCH by Cara Blouin. This one act, one set, hour-long trip into the stress-induced madness of expectant motherhood is so deviant and funny it would make John Waters envious.

The immersive, voyeur-like experience of PINK PUNCH (artfully directed by Maura Krause) makes for a powerful spatial synergy, enhanced bythe space in which it is performed—The Art Church of West Philadelphia, a West Philly twin-cum-performing arts center.

The living room of the small twin home became the stage in which the peculiarities of PINK PUNC were ladled out. Actors sat on chairs next to audience members, ever blurring the lines of reality, adding to the abstract feel of the performance. On more than one occasion, I lost myself in the mix of the coven of hostile mothers, friends, and “nanas.” Only a matter of time, I thought, before I, too, will be forced to drink the narcotic punch and slip into the noxious pink haze of the evening.

My favorite part of PINK PUNCH, the tale of a baby shower that devolves into an initiation rite of the trappings of motherhood, was that I totally forgot I was watching a play. I didn’t check my cell phone or daydream about intermission once. I felt like one of those creepy porcelain figurines my grandma collected and kept on her shelf—just another piece of set dressing. I can only attribute my enjoyment to Blouin’s skilled writing and a team of fine actors.

Kristen Norine plays Kate, the lofty, naïve, mother-to-be, her head adorned with unwanted bows and filled with notions of eco-friendly cloth diapers and the prospect of raising a child while living a fulfilling life—an idea the other mothers find preposterously laughable. Nell Bang-Jensen plays Kate’s friend Rachel. She accompanies Kate to the shower as moral support, someone who will stand up with Kate against her family that disapproves of Kate’s holistic lifestyle and scholarly pursuits. Laura McWater plays Diane, Kate’s mother, the ultimate Stepford wife, whose sinister ear-to-ear grin hides a headful of malice. Barbara, Diane’s secretary and friend, begs us to reopen the whole “is it ever okay to punch a woman?” debate. Finally, Tanya Lazar as Nana: I don’t even know how to honestly approach this great character other than to say, “What the fuck?”

Helming it all, Cara Blouin herself—the West Philly based writer-director and residing community member of the Art Church—kept us all guessing. I couldn’t help but get the feeling that she wrote PINK PUNCH, not only as an allegorical tale of maternal woes and our innate fear of an unknowable future, but as a reminder to us all to see life as the absurd, wildly inappropriate joke that it so often tends to be.

So, if your dull existence is in dire need of a wake-up call; if you are looking to be drenched in the sweat of a performance and feel your heart race again as it comes alive in the presence of living breathing art; make your way to the Art Church, slap a bow on your head and settle in for PINK PUNCH—one hell of a weird ride. 

[Art Church of West Philadelphia] January 22-29, 2016; PINK PUNCH runs with another play, Sorry, Broken Piano (read accompanying review).

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