Sacred Naked Nature Girls, four young women of varied ethnicities and sexual orientations, typically perform their shows in the nude. In recent years, the group has become increasingly visible (no pun intended) on the performance art scene.
In their newest show, "Home: The Last Place I Ran to Just About Killed Me," at Highways, this counterculture collective again delivers a richly evocative, nonlinear theatrical event that explores issues from the specifically feminist to the universal.
Since their formation in 1993, the puckishly named Girls--Danielle Brazell, Laura Meyers, Akilah Oliver and Denise Uyehara--have developed their highly original pieces through the use of "flesh memory," which they describe as an exploration of the various "texts" of the body and as an attempt to "tap into the multiplicity of languages and realities" that the flesh holds. The exact definition may seem amorphous, but on stage, the result can be surprisingly visceral.
The stark set consists of three bridal gowns hanging from the ceiling, along with a few strips of white paper. Four suitcases are positioned stage right. The evening opens with a naked woman (Meyers) standing on an upstage platform playing with a Hula-Hoop as the other women wander onstage in various stages of undress. Each woman grabs a suitcase and sits on the platform step, reciting an overlapping litany of addresses and phone numbers from their pasts.
The subject matter ranges from the trauma of childhood incest to the totemic importance of clothing.
In one scene, a happy child is frozen into shamed immobility by the increasingly sexual suggestions of her onlooking father, who is videotaping her play. In another scene, the women strew the contents of their suitcases around the stage, discussing the significance of various pieces of clothing--from the wedding dress of one's mother to the hilariously outsize "big shirt" that another tracked down on a bet. Pantyhose are treated as a quaint relic of a bygone era: 1986. "Office bondage," Brazell wryly reminisces.
On and off, the performers do wear clothing in this production. The women's frequently half-clad bodies--although necessary to the point that women are both hidden and defined by their attire--give the proceedings a sadly prurient quality.
By contrast, the group's all-nude show, seen at Highways a couple of summers back, was ritualistically purifying, a robust demythologization of the airbrushed silicon "ideals" presented in most media.
Sadder and more reflective, "Home" touches on the passage of time, the love of family and the persistent longing for a stable home life. Even among those women who have soundly rejected "traditional" values, the quest for permanence and domestic repose remains a powerful imperative--despite a lingering ambivalence.
* "Home: The Last Place I Ran to Just About Killed Me," Highways, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica. Thursday-Sunday, 8:30 p.m. $10-$12. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes.