SEDNAAAA: Kristine Haruna Lee’s WAR LESBIAN
In a deafeningly snowy part of Alaska, Ellen DeGeneres, who has for our purposes developed into a demonic demigod, watches on as a womb gives birth to a thought. The name the thought (who is actually a girl) Sedna. And she is not quite what they expected… When her secret is OUT, her father Mitch drags her out to see on a boat, then pushes her overboard. Sedna clings onto the edges for dear life, but Mitch raises an axe high and chops all her fingers off. Two bloody stumps and some serious daddy issues later (with a bunch of fingers who’ve turned into seals) Sedna takes on the oceanic underworld, hungry and waging a war to find herself.
Now that we’re all on the same page.
I saw WAR LESBIAN on the last night of it’s run at Dixon Place. I wasn’t planning on writing about it, but no one else was, so here we are.
I also wasn’t sure what I was getting into and hadn’t ever seen a harunalee show (heard about them for the first time 3 months ago), but everyone else was talking about it and in the constant “trying to be part of the cool downtown theatre in crowd” mindset, I felt like I had to. So in preparation I read the above description and my eyebrows raised. Alaska? Inuit culture? Who do these people think they are?!
Soon after I saw the show, I left NYC to spend Christmas in midwest suburbia. And now, thinking about it a week later, after spending the holiday with the extended family that never really understands, WAR LESBIAN might just make more sense.
Because the thoughts at the gooey and rich center of all this, the question of “is the fight really worth it?” resonates to me, especially because I’ve been asking myself this same question. I’m actually really glad that I’ve put off writing this thing until the last minute. I’m glad that I unintentionally let the show marinate in my thoughts and dreams, that the striking and fun images have faded and the ideas behind it all have become sharper. At the bottom line, it’s fun, it’s jovial, it’s sassy and striking, but I don’t agree with other reviewers that it might not be saying anything at all, that it doesn’t go deep enough and that at the end of the day, it’s a cotton candy piece.
Because here’s the thing, WAR LESBIAN continually asks itself what it’s all for and that question lets the play change on a dime, following another avenue as Sedna tries to scratch the itch of fulfillment. The constant existential crisis’ of Sedna leads her down the rabbit hole of options, she’s fighting for something, but unable to articulate it and that need to continue on with the “war” leaves her unsatisfied, unable to keep a relationship and unable to move forward. She follows whatever mentor she can get to give her the time of day, all the time trying to move away from “home” and distance herself from her family of origin. All with snappy songs, fur and all the jokes about holes you can possibly think of!
A lot of people have said things about War Lesbians, even on this site. I’m unsure if my scattered thoughts and personal connection are enough to keep you riveted. But here’s what I do know: there’s more under the surface of this show, floating around in the subconscious that’ll prick you when you least expect it, most likely during family Christmas dinner with the White Republican Christians wing of the clan, explaining to them the why of who you are and what you do. Harunalee explores the terrifying unknown with a gaudy richness that left me swimming in images and then drowning in personal reflection. I’m excited to see what they churn out next.
PS: Did I mention it’s a musical?!?