New York performance artist Holly Hughes dropped into Highways in Santa Monica on Thursday night to deliver "World Without End." The piece is as deceptively casual as a chat in a luncheonette booth but liable to leak into moments of sly sexual humor, flatten out into bald preaching about causes or catch hold of delicious, free-floating extended metaphors.
Hughes' main themes--the lushness of sexual desire, the "otherness" of homosexuality, men's treatment of women, the gap between art and life--wove in and out of many narratives that started out somewhere in the Midwest and eventually glided into an updated Garden of Eden.
Her persona was a hybrid: a demure vixen in a red, off-the-shoulder dress. When she wasn't standing and gesturing in classic helpless-woman style--with her upper arms plastered against her sides--she was sashaying around in an I-am-Woman way or plunking herself down in demure-to-brazen postures on a red armchair or collapsing to her knees in a paroxysm of intoxication with the bad names people have called her.
But her great gift as a performer--other than superb pacing and her friendly alto voice--is her ability to convey volumes simply by peering sharply from under her blonde bangs and tightening up her chin in an I-know-what's-going-on-here way.