"Just Sitting Down Seems Impossible" - The Stranger on "Yellow Towel" Mar 6, 2016
The one-person show emerges from a poem Canadian dancer and former marketing executive Michel wrote as an exercise during a dance class. The poem's about her hair, and, according to press materials, it recalls a time when, as a child, Michel would "drape a yellow towel on her head to emulate the blond girls at school."
In the show, Michel embodies a character who wants to accomplish pretty mundane, domestic tasks: eat, drink, cook, clean, play jams and dance like nobody's watching. But none of that's easy. When she speaks she cycles through several accents—a stereotypical southern US black woman, a stereotypical west African person, and one accent that sounds completely made-up. Her lines are variously didactic and self-descriptive; plainspoken stuff cut with theory stuff. These choices suggest the struggle of a black woman trying to assert an individual self in a cultural swamp of black stereotypes. Michel's movement reflects the intensity of this psychological struggle—everything she does is strained and erratic-seeming, her limbs look like they're being electrified at different times. Just sitting down seems impossible.
To maintain tension, the performance draws on a lot of comedic gestures—chieflyimprov, clowning, durational jokes—and also cringe-inducing and sad tableaus full of racist imagery. A particularly moving example of the later: at one point she peels a banana and shoves chunks of it in her mouth as she tries to sing an ethereal hymn. A particularly wonderful example of the former: she scoops a handful of marshmallow fluff from a jar like a gun from a holster and just starts walking around with hand full of fluff.You never know what is going to happen next in this thing, and that's enough reason to keep watching.