Fringe Festival Reviews # 1: PolySHAMory
Don't miss this excellent one-woman show about polyamory and personal growth
You don’t need to be up on your poly acronyms to enjoy this heart-ful, funny, and open show about Kate Robards’ journey into and out of a polyamorous marriage. Robards’ warm and friendly personality is evident from the moment she greets audience members in person before hopping onto the stage to share her truth. Her single mother from rural Texas advised her from a young age, “Marry rich” (don’t worry, I think all mothers do this), and Robards manages to do exactly that. Only, as she discovers, sometimes marrying rich is less about money and more about the unexpected education one receives about oneself.
Robards and her boyfriend turned new husband want to live a big life, one in which they do adventuresome and extraordinary things. This manifests itself in their sexuality. Starting initially with dirty talk and chat, they move towards creating online profiles with the hopes of a threesome. When the initial threesome fails to manifest, the two end up separated early-on in the marriage as Robards’ husband lives in New York while Robards attends graduate school in California for a writing degree. The vaguely kinky duo soon find partners of their own and with it come all the problems associated with the newly polyamorous: what are we doing? how do you address feelings of jealousy and competition? how do you tell your friends and family, especially when they don’t understand?
Robards addresses all of these questions with anecdotes and stories so seamlessly that the audience themselves is brought along through her education into the experience. Acronyms and terms are dropped — NRE (new relationship energy), OPP (one penis policy), primary partner, metamour, etc. The Bible of the polyamorous, The Ethical Slut, is given its due recognition. The basics that allow for sustainable and healthy polyamorous relationships are mentioned — “The only rule is that you set the rules.” And, perhaps most important the audience quickly grasps that polyamory is not just about sex but about the abundance of love. The normalizing of what for many is a taboo or just foreign experience is commendable and handled deftly.
Where the show really gets its guts, though, is the tension Robards has as someone of less material means married to one who has abundant means. When the relationship runs into problems, she is all too aware of what she loses if she leaves. She parallels her own story with that of her closest friend from growing up, who also landed in New York as a model, and is in a far less healthy relationship. As the two stories proximate and then separate, Robards boldly begins to see herself as she is as an individual, as a member of a couple undergoing a difficult stretch, and as part of a polyamorous triad. It’s an emotional reckoning and she’s not afraid to share the difficult and less appealing side of herself.
On the whole, this show was so charming and funny that it’s hard to have any gripes. But, some of the vignettes and monologues that compose the show either skip ahead in time or reference things never quite covered. Audience members can fill in the blanks and keep up, but there has to be a more obvious way to mark these transitions. It’s a very minor, minor complaint about an excellent show with an important story to tell. Don’t miss it.
PolySHAMory is at Le Ministère (4521 St Laurent) on June 8, 9, 10, and 12 at the Montreal Fringe Festival, which takes place until June 16. For tickets to PolySHAMory and other shows, click HERE.