Welcome to the Champagne Room, where sexily-clad women tantalize and tease, where personal connections come at a price, truths hide amidst lies, and where one thing is certain, says dancer and former stripper Moriah Ella Mason: “You are entirely safe from true love.”
This fantasy setting, candidly based in part on Mason’s own real-life experiences, was vividly brought to life in the her riveting one-woman dance-theater piece Sex Werque, staged in July at Carnegie Stage. The production became the first in the theater’s history to sell out all of its performances. Mason reprises Sex Werque for four performances, Jan. 18-21 at the same venue.
Written, choreographed and performed by Mason, the brilliantly crafted, 80-minute, intermissionless multimedia production proved groundbreaking and memorable in its world premiere, on July 27.
Mason, costumed in a camisole, bodice, stockings, garters and red platform boots, engaged the sold-out audience in a semi-autobiographical, behind-the-scenes conversation about life as a stripper. It was structured like a cabaret piece set in a strip club (designed by Adrienne Colaruotolo), complete with stripper pole, stage, makeup table and bar cart. Mason, 30, a Trafford native, weaved an utterly engaging and compelling tale mixing dialogue, video interviews with other strippers, and dance that touched on stripping’s allure for her and others — its rewards, sacrifices, compromises in dignity, and its effects on her personal safety and emotional stability.
Sex Werque is set to an original soundscape by J.F. Winkles of Pittsburgh band it it, performed live by Winkles and Eric Weidenhof. In the work, Mason dispelled many preconceived and stereotypical notions of strippers. She engaged the audience in conversations, such as by asking which stripper persona they felt best suited her, like Eden, of who she said “when you are with me, you’re in paradise.” She also demonstrated and described, in her disarming elementary-school-teacher-sounding voice, a litany of stripper moves that she assigned numbers to, such as the butt-cheek-bouncing No. 13 and No. 14. But most captivating were the moments when Mason blurred the lines between her character and her former life in heartbreakingly real conversations about her quest to feel loved and desired.
Enlightening, stimulating and poignant, Sex Werque ranks as one of 2017’s best area dance productions, and one you won’t want to miss in this new year.