Review: ‘Pieces’

There are worse things in the world than being drop-dead gorgeous, but you'd never know it from listening to the tales of woe emanating from the knockout ladies gracing the stage of Stuff Theater. Despite the obvious booty exploitation, the revelations in "Pieces" prove to be nearly as aurally stimulating as they are visually enticing.

There are worse things in the world than being drop-dead gorgeous, but you’d never know it from listening to the tales of woe emanating from the knockout ladies gracing the stage of Stuff Theater, a soundstage turned high-tech performance space at Hollywood’s Raleigh Studios. Creator-helmer Brian Howe has assembled a rotating cast that highlights the unique problems inherent in possessing a face and body that stand out in a crowd. Having preemed Off Broadway in July, this mostly irreverent, in-your-face series of monologues could be likened to a runway version of “The Vagina Monologues,” minus the dire sociological undercurrent. Despite the obvious booty exploitation (these ladies aren’t dressed in gunny sacks), the revelations, if not intellectually engrossing, prove to be nearly as aurally stimulating as they are visually enticing.

The guest star for this performance is E! Entertainment icon Brooke Burke (“Wild On,” “Rank”), who provides the tamest discourse of the evening. Burke waxes poetic on the wonders of being married to renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Garth Fisher (“He makes women feel beautiful”) and on being a doting mother to her two young daughters. As she affirms, “I play a sex symbol. Then I go home to my most important role, mommy.”

The rest of the evening is devoted to the inner turmoil, sad and comical, suffered by superbabes who have trouble getting men to look past their cleavage and derrieres. The dumb-blonde issue is taken on directly by leggy Orange County native Jana Speaker and New York pinup model Rachael Robbins. Speaker declares, “I am dumb. I’m really, really dumb. Thank God I’m hot.” Robbins goes on the attack, spewing forth a series of venomously stated dumb-blonde jokes, such as, “How does a blonde turn on the light after sex? She opens the car door.”

Thesp-singer Diahnna Nicole Baxter and Juilliard graduate Aya Sumika turn in the two most poetic outpourings. Baxter offers an ethereal, raplike history lesson on the white male’s “obsession with colored pussy,” summing up her discourse by gleaming provocatively at the row of gentleman occupying the front-row seats, affirming that it is now socially “acceptable to dip your finger in the chocolate.” Sumika glides sensually about the stage as she offers her ode to the morning hours, declaring that a woman is most beautiful when she is completely off-guard and natural. But as she sadly points out, this natural youthful glow will fade and all women will have to endure their greatest enemy, time.

Chelsey Crisp delivers the most angst-ridden recollection of the evening, chronicling her history of being stalked through much of her life by an unseen predator she’s named John. Crisp exudes a haunting fatalism as she explains how she has come to accept this entity as one of the more tangibly real aspects of her everyday life.

To counterbalance the rounds of beauty anguish, helmer Howe wisely injects some comical anecdotes into the proceedings. Danielle James is hilarious as a Gallic-spouting French pastry dish whose sexy lingo is not quite in sync with the English subtitles projected onto video screens that bookend the stage. Rachel Hollon offers a captivating remembrance of being coerced by a girl friend to enter a hot legs contest at a local bar, only to face humiliation when she accidentally looses her short skit, revealing that she is wearing decidedly nonsexy granny panties.

The entire evening is underscored by the musical outpourings of DJ Megalicious (Megan Tropea), perched on a scaffold above the stage. She eventually closes the show by taking center stage and summing up what all the women truly believe. No matter what tribulations they suffer through the superficial evaluations of the outside world, they are much happier with their assets than they would be without.


The Stuff Theater@Raleigh Studios - Hollywood; 200 seats; $40 top


A New Scenario Entertainment presentation of a performance in two acts, conceived and directed by Brian Howe.


Sets, Paulo Marroquin; lights, Keith Brunsmann, Ron Robertson; sound, George Georgiades. Opened Oct. 31, 2003; reviewed Nov. 20; closes Dec. 28. Running time: 1 HOUR, 40 MIN.


With: Diahnna Nicole Baxter, Chelsey Crisp, Leigh Elliott, Rachel Hollon, Danielle James, Heidi Kristoffer, Cassie Pappas, Jana Speaker, Rachael Robbins, Aya Sumika, Megan Tropea. Guest: Brooke Burke.

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