After all, he’s just a man

Cowboygirls certainly can Can-Can in “Stand on Your Man”

ABy Michelle Horton

Arriving at the Loring Playhouse for Shawn McConneloug’s “Stand on Your Man,” could be described as nothing less than fabulous. People were talking, laughing, drinking, eating and eagerly anticipating one of the more amazing shows currently playing in our humble metropolis. The crowd was bubbly, strutting around in cowboy hats, and it soon became challenging to discern the women from the men. Soon enough a ménage of transgendered love by the cowboygirl jamboree would appear on stage. (“Cowboygirl” is McConneloug’s term for the continuum of a character’s gender identification.)

The production is constructed as a performance-dance-montage piece. McConneloug uses film, dance, song, light and costume to create a pastiche of country lovin’ come to life in a most spectacular way. The show operates by way of vignettes to represent the falling, committing, struggling, cheating and breaking moments in a relationship. Designed and choreographed with old country musicals in mind, McConneloug brings forth a dance ensemble (her Orchestra) of denim-clad Can-Can cowboygirls ready to revolutionize vaudeville.

Audra Tracy kicks off the show with a yodeling call in the dark for anyone or anything. She is answered first by one yodel and finally by a symphony of Orchestra yodels. She finds him, or her, or he finds him, or her, and they find them, and pretty soon we have something resembling that infamous Blur song, but with lassos. Their lithe, muscular, beautiful bodies perform slapstick seduction, roping each other in with fence-hopping antics and mud-wrestling ballet. They walk sleepily on, falling lazily into one another. But the calm doesn’t last long – euphoria returns to the Orchestra as they spin around with plastic toy horses protruding from their torsos, spanking themselves silly and thrusting while wearing denim skirts with tassels. The show has begun.

The second film in the show, “Birth of a Filly,” takes a close look at the fantastical relationship between girls and horses, the grace of a horse, the birth of a horse, and the idea of roping in, being roped in and running free. These ideas, so often forgotten in the city, are danced and moved by the Orchestra as they become horses: They whinny, grunt, bite and slap their own behinds in a rapture of sado-masochistic/narcissistic bestial falling in love.

McConneloug orchestrates the combination of film and dance superbly by continuing on stage what we see on screen: Kristen Van Loon falls and stumbles like a baby horse until Peter Rousseau teaches her how to dance. Of course, he eventually tries to capture her as well.

The “Musical Chairs” number begins with the Orchestra watching the audience, and of course one member of the Orchestra is left without a chair. The game soon turns into a king-of-the-hill-type struggle, enacted by writhing, struggling bodies on the floor. As the game continues and more chairs are removed, the struggle becomes fully erotic as all body parts are twisted and contorted, groping and clenching, in a battle to usurp the one on the bottom. Through the sensually choreographed cacophony of bodies, the women win out. They and they alone are on top.

Closing in on the finale are a couple of musical numbers tying up the rough ends of a broken heart, including another sung by Tracy (who is delectable) with the chorus ringing, “I forgot more than you ‘ll ever know about him.” In another, we have an Elvis-type golden angel of country singing, “I ‘m just tryin ‘ hard to please the meanest girl in town.”

Love is lost, but the grand finale more than makes up for it. Tracy grabs us by the crotch for this one, crooning at the top of her lungs with the riotous “Stand on your man!” She is positively radiant, having won out the one battle we all find pain in. As for the Orchestra, if movement is a voice, they are a chorus of spectacle and they are screaming “Let Go!”

“Stand on Your Man” plays through May 4 at the Loring Playhouse, (612) 822-1275.

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