Created by David di Giovanni and Amanda Cordner. Directed by David di Giovanni. An Upintheair Theatre presentation, as part of the rEvolver Festival. At the Vancity Culture Lab on Friday, May 31. No remaining performances
When best friends get to their breaking point, being on either side of that final text message is its own hell. Body So Fluorescent, a magnificent 60-minute show created by Amanda Cordner and David di Giovanni, is full of compassion for its BFFs. Gary and Desiree (both played with exquisite heart and beautiful physicality by Cordner) are trying, separately, to piece together what exactly happened on the dance floor at the club the night before. How exactly did they get here, on the other side of a “We’re done” text when it was supposed to just be another night out?
Body So Fluorescent isn’t just about two friends falling out. This is a multilayered piece that deals with race and racism, stereotyping, queerness, identity, white privilege, cultural appropriation, homophobia, gender policing, and otherness within a friendship. Explicitly spelling out the fundamental differences between Gary and Desiree would spoil the major twist of Body So Fluorescent, so I’ll be cagey and say that Gary and Desiree are characters who move through the world experiencing different kinds of marginalization and oppression, and that also carries into the dynamics of their relationship.
Body So Fluorescent is poetic, heartbreaking, and insightful. It’s crafted with the same precision and care that Cordner brings to her characters on-stage, and that di Giovanni, as director, makes part of the play’s framework. It’s also one of the most exquisitely written plays I’ve seen in a long time. There’s nothing more satisfying than when the words seem to genuinely flow from the characters themselves, as when Desiree recalls meeting Gary for the first time, saying how “he lit up like a glow stick that had been cracked in half.” Or when she describes the nightmare that is the largely white dance floor as a homogenous sea of patrons “screaming the songs with their teeth, biting the music”.
As Desiree and Gary confront who they are in relation to one another, and in relation to their place in the world with regard to their identities, Cordner gives the performance of a lifetime. She embodies the characters with nuance and vulnerability. Each moves in a certain way (the choreography is excellent), takes up space differently (depending on the gender presentation of the character), and speaks with his or her own cadence, and Cordner nails these subtle distinctions. As Desiree works through her complicated feelings toward Gary, she’s also grappling with the relentless violence of white supremacy and racism, having her blackness appropriated and commodified, and her own experiences of being a black woman in a white world, and in proximity to Gary, Cordner deftly pivots to draw out every laugh without erasing the seriousness of Desiree’s and Gary’s journeys.
What Cordner and di Giovanni have created with Body So Fluorescent is a play that is contemporary and necessary, challenging and provocative, and thrillingly innovative as a solo piece.