University Theatre’s ‘Landscape of the Body’ mixes American disillusionment, humor and 1970s porn

The University of Oregon stage production group has a dress rehearsal on Jan. 22, 2013 for their upcoming show Landscape of the Body. (Taylor Wilder/Emerald)

The University of Oregon stage production group has a dress rehearsal on Jan. 22, 2013 for their upcoming show Landscape of the Body. (Taylor Wilder/Emerald)

Posted by Kaylee Tornay on Monday, Jan. 27 at 4:00 pm.

You may think there’s no chance you could ever identify with a porn star from Maine who gets killed in a bike accident. But a jaunt to see the University Theatre’s production of “Landscape of the Body” might change your mind. Filled with illicit sexual encounters, the least cheesy musical numbers you could hope for and enough death to keep a sadist happy, “Landscape of the Body” will make you laugh nervously one moment, ponder the nature of existence the next and cause you bewilderment more than once.

The narrator is Rosalie, a New York City travel agent living the good life: snorting coke in her apartment, sleeping with her boss and making porno’s in her spare time. She’s killed in an accident, however, shortly after her sister Betty shows up to try to bring her back to their Maine hometown. Rosalie, played by UO student Anne Lupi, accompanies us as we witness Betty taking over the various city-girl roles of her late sister’s life, eventually winding up accused of her own son’s murder.

“Landscape of the Body” is categorized as a “play with music,” which basically means Rosalie enters sporadically and performs a brief song related to what’s happening in the play. Although this may sound suspiciously like a musical to theatre-rookies, director Jean Sidden pointed out the difference.

“I think of Rosalie like a Greek chorus, commenting on the action of the play,” Sidden said. If that doesn’t clear things up, just take my word for it: it’s not a musical.

The characters, despite inclinations toward various disturbing elements (if you’re uncomfortable with talk about golden showers, plug your ears for most of the second scene), have a relatable charm to them. When we’re introduced to Betty, played by UO student Rebecca Lee, she’s under police investigation. She’s harsh and angry about her son’s death and — honestly — less than likable. However, through flashback, we develop an affinity with her as we witness her descent from folksy single mother frustrated with her monotonous life to hardened city woman living an often-idealized life that leaves her just as dissatisfied.

Rosalie is enchanting with a saucy, Mae West-y persona that commands attention. Lupi describes her as “a big person, essentially.” Being dead is the best thing ever, she says. Yet, as we listen to her recounting events in the living world, there are clear indications of a longing for life. Running themes include feelings of belonging nowhere and disillusionment with the intangible American Dream. In the words of Sidden, “the All-American, clean-cut, Currier-and-Ives atmosphere [is] just shattered in Landscape.”

All in all, the play strikes a satisfying balance between bizarre (when Rosalie recounts a sex scene she filmed with a man in a gorilla suit), humorous (the sleazy boss who wears a gold-lamé evening gown because he thinks that’s what successful Americans do) and downright gut-wrenching (watching the relationship between Betty and her son disintegrate the longer they stay in the city). Far from a pro-America production, Landscape of the Body will definitely cause you to rethink the much-lauded national idea of aspiration—or at least, make you want to investigate 1970s porn.

“Landscape of the Body” will be showing in the Hope Theatre this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., along with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. The show is free for UO students.



  • dramalover

    really great review; I think I might check it out this weekend.