Tia Nina sounds like the name of an adorable Latina aunt. Tia Nina is actually the name of a feminist, glam-rock, purple-merkin-clad dance trio. Their sex-positive dance concert, JUICED, lands with a sploosh in the Eastman Theatre, running through July 24.
JUICED is a performance best served hot, and, in an ideal world, late at night and in a rougher, less gentrified neighborhood than H Street. The first performance was at 6:45pm on the first Thursday of the festival, a notoriously hard time slot for packing the house. But Tia Nina members J Van Stone, Sammy Rain, and Sticks performed like they were rocking a sold-out arena. Their boundless energy and enthusiasm were the most winning components of JUICED.
Tia Nina sets you up for their rock concert atmosphere immediately. Before entering the Eastman, everyone gets a Tia Nina hand stamp from a friendly dude who could easily be a bouncer. A merch table hawks t-shirts and pins. Only amps and water bottles are preset onstage. An apathetic roadie meanders to the tech booth. Very punk rock. I was ready to head-bang along to a grungy, bare-bones set of dance pieces. Instead, I was tugged into something closer to a David Bowie fever dream, ruminating on everything from fruit to catcalling to wrestling to (how topical!) Donald Trump.
JUICED is a dance concert broken up into two- to five-minute songs and corresponding choreography. Each song stands alone, leaving the show without unifying arc or narrative. Though the evening was scattered, it was never dull. A good rule of thumb for this show: if you feel confused, just let out a rebel yell and clap along.
Featuring Tia Nina
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The show opens with a provocative video projection of Tia Nina eating, licking, smashing, and squeezing an entire produce section’s worth of fruit. The video, by Glenn Ricci, Matt Levin, and Lisi Stoessel, is a great primer for what’s to cum–sorry, come. The trio dive headfirst (and sometimes buttfirst) into the rest of the fifty-minute show, occasionally spinning off into solo or pas de deux pieces. The style of dance is a blend of pedestrian movement, modern dance, and rock concert showmanship. Choreography, by the performers, was frenetic and well-rehearsed, but sometimes repetitive and underwhelming.
Special effects by Siobhan Beckett were surprising and sexy. Costumes, by Katy Kincade and Tia Nina, were sparkly and just a little bit profane. Lighting Designer Julius Macedonia made creative use of the sparse lighting equipment fringe venues provide.
All music in the show was original, with the exception of one earnest MIA cover. Jerry Becker, Jeremy Durkin, John Lee, Michael Moon, Glenn Ricci, Eric Shimelonis, and Tia Nina composed the tracks, which varied in tone and tempo, but always had a trace of punk. The grand finale “Who’s Your Momma”, with its Ramones-style recurring, onomatopoetic chorus, will get stuck in your head.
JUICED is not for everyone. The show is literally and figuratively messy. Sexuality isn’t shrouded in innuendo. Much of the humor comes from shock value, and audience participation is a requirement, not opt-in. A word of warning: you will leave the theatre dripping wet. From water guns (get your mind out of the gutter–or actually…just leave it there for this show). Think of the super soakers as an extra incentive to put your phone away. Consider carefully before bringing a Republican or someone with a pacemaker.
Most importantly, throw your inhibitions off at the door, it’s the only way to experience Tia Nina’s specific brand of performance.
A special moment that deserves commendation: right before the grand finale, all tech went ka-put. The projector shut down, and the sound zapped off. Tia Nina handled the moment with grace and do-it-yourself aplomb. J Van Stone didn’t miss a beat, and immediately started teaching the audience the words to “Who’s Your Momma.” Sammy Rain and Sticks used the moment to stay limber with some stretches and to goof around with the audience. Sound technician Steven Krigel kept his cool during a stressful moment. After maybe three minutes, the sound roared back up, and the band finished the show in a cartwheel chain of glory.
JUICED is a checklist of everything wacky you expect at Fringe. Giant rainbow beachballs? Check. Gender bending? Check. Zebra masks? Check. Spontaneous song in German? Check. Simulated masturbation? Check. Sequins and spandex in one outfit? Check. Check. Check. If you’re looking for a zany, carnal time, go get “juiced.”
JUICED . created by Tia Nina . Cast: Leah Curran Moon, Ilana Silverstein, Lisi Stoessel . Costume Design: Katy Kincade, Tia Nina . Lighting Design: Julius Macedonia . Special Effects: Siobhan Beckett . Video: Glen Ricci, Matt Levin, Lisi Stoessel . Sound: Steven Krigel . Produced by Tia Nina . Reviewed by Ruthie Rado.
Ryan Fleming says
As a black man watching this play, I found myself repeating shaking my head saying, “Damn, white people stupid.”