Marc Kate and Fauxnique's 'Girl' Is A Fragment Of Philosophy In The Guise Of A Lovely Bit Of Performance
There’s something so private about Marc Kate and drag artist Fauxnique’s Girl at the Joe Goode Annex that I wasn’t sure that I could say anything about it without somehow breaking a sacred bond, a vow to a friend to stay quiet about a personal bit of information, or some unspeakable crime. And then I realized in the logic of the piece that that’s what a killer would think and not the girl who runs from him, who is desperate to survive and let us know that something wicked is happening right now.
Girl is a kind of beautiful abstraction that takes the last girl trope of slasher films and subjects it to a philosophy of violence. We know the situation: after all the terror and killing is done, there’s always a girl with lovely brown hair struggling to escape, to claw her way back to something approaching a normal life, or any life at all. Her moment is always some combination of the smutty indifference of the snuff film and a survivor’s religious transcendence. Kate and Fauxnique choose transcendence (with snuff lurking at a distance) and the effect is, at times, stunning.
For the first fifteen minutes or so of this hour-long performance piece, Kate follows Fauxnique around the stage with a work light. He flashes it on and she’s caught in an iconic pose; he turns it off and you hear them scuffling along the stage; he turns it on and you get another iconic pose, over and over again. At first you only watch Fauxnique, whose emotional range in stillness surpasses most actresses in full motion. But then slowly, you start to pay attention to Kate, the man with the light, and you’re chilled—we know that the killer always watches, and that he often controls the light.
Girl progresses in such a natural and casual fashion that at times it’s possible to forget that we are in one long extended attempted murder of the most brutal sort. Sometimes Kate talks to us, directly, and in section call “The Agreement” he lays out the terms for our agreement with him. Or the performance? Or the girl and her would be killer? It’s hard to tell, but here’s a taste of what he has to say:
I think we have an unspoken agreement here. If not, or if it’s unclear, let me state it plainly: I won’t hurt you and you won’t hurt me. Does that seem fair?
Well, sure, yes, until:
I’m not afraid of you. I have the lights. I have the microphone. It’s a little vulnerable, but not really. Is that it? Or am I intimidating? Because I’m big enough? Big enough to maybe be able to do violence better than you. Do I seem like I would like it?
Girl is not scary, but it’s unnerving to be there and as I said before feels just a little too private to discuss in public. The piece posits that killing has all the contours and qualities of a relationship, with unspoken rules that when voiced take us aback. Of course, you can “do violence better” than me, but why bring it up?
The last girl trope is all about the girl’s belief in her resilience, or maybe better put, the girl’s discovery of her belief in her resilience. The progression is as uplifting as it is desperate: I want to survive; I have to fight to survive; I’m strong enough when I fight to survive; I cannot be destroyed when I fight, but this attack is happening again and again and again. Can I keep on going? Am I strong enough to fight forever? When will this ever end?
When Fauxnique takes the mike and speaks to us it’s a relief, but a false one. Her insistence that “Oooh Girl, I know how you feel” causes pause. Well, first we laugh because the “Oooh Girl” monologue is funny, but then we pause because funny over and over again can easily slip into terror. And then you realize that even relief is caught in a never-ending loop, and that strangely we might wish for the violence to return. If only to see if this time, something definitive might happen.
Girl is fascinating and wonderful, a fragment of philosophy that somehow becomes a lovely bit of performance.
Three Last (Girl) Thoughts
Kate’s music feels like what a killer would come up with if he could compose his own soundtrack.
The piece ends suddenly and morphs into a question and answer session. That feels unfinished and ripe for a stronger, more definitive conclusion.
I’ve always believed that I’m ready for violence; that I know how to take care of myself, but one moment in Girl has convinced me otherwise. I think you’ll know what I’m talking about after you experience it. Take my word for it, you won’t be prepared.
‘Girl’ runs through October 20 at the Joe Goode Annex in San Francisco. For tickets and information click here.