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Shut Up and Love Me 

Karen Finley dwells on sexual politics

Wednesday, Mar 21 2001
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Karen Finley likes to perform naked -- and really, folks, it's no big deal. Whether she's ad-libbing or reading from a typed script, her flamboyant and outrageous performance art glides naturally from one character to another in a seamless rant 'n' roll that's just right at 75 minutes. From her opening burlesque-style striptease to her final honey-dipping nude frolic, she wastes no time letting us see her bare flesh and equally bare soul. As with most performance artists, she can get excessive, but as she truthfully points out in one of her typical out-of-character asides, "I am a performance artist, which means there are no guaranteed results." She dwells on sexual politics, covering everything from the relationship between women and men to society, food, dogs, and whatever else strikes her fancy. She may describe pornographic images, but they are generally so hyperbolic that we see the humor, especially when she sneaks in pointed political barbs. Finley's anger is certainly justifiable given her many years battling the federal government over its puritanical removal of her National Endowment for the Arts grants -- a fight she took all the way to the Supreme Court (and lost). She is quirky, jerky, and flirty, stopping to talk to the audience one moment, making requests of the stage crew at another -- or just being professionally unprofessional, and proudly so. But she is a deft comedic actress whose consistent rawness and exposed vulnerability are the very charms that will either get you to love her or make you want her to shut up.

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Michael S. Lasky

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