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THEATER BEAT

'Elements of Flesh' Dares to Be Sensuous

May 10, 1996|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

"Remembering the men, I give up on names and turn to body parts." The first line of Joan Hotchkis' solo show "Elements of Flesh" at Highways emphasizes the aptness of the piece's subtitle--"Screwing Saved My Ass."

According to Hotchkis, a lissome 68-year-old who looks half her age, older people are actively discouraged from remaining sexually vital by disapproving family members--and society in general. An almost freakishly youthful guru of senior sexuality, Hotchkis illustrates her point through candid reminiscences about her past and present--most particularly her own many sexual escapades.

An attractive (if unrealistic) role model, Hotchkis is a professed feminist who touts sexual indefatigability as a lifestyle option. One of her main characters is her good friend's seventysomething lover Chuck, whose monologues Hotchkis has transcribed from a series of taped interviews. Chuck's sexual diatribe is often assaultively lewd, a dirty phone call that Hotchkis wrongheadedly plumbs for meaning.

Hotchkis' bravely revealing show, directed by Clifford Bell, is bold, pithy and poetic (excluding the lapses into soft-core hyperbole). However, Hotchkis frequently refers to a script--an annoying distraction. And despite her carefully upbeat persona as a mystically sensuous seeker, Hotchkis' promiscuity hints of desperation, or loneliness--or both.

* "Elements of Flesh," Highways, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica. Because of an injury, there will be no shows this weekend. Shows resume May 17, Fridays-Saturdays, 8:30 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Ends May 26. $12. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

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