Bare Bodies, Unbearable Bodices in Migdalia Cruz and Lynn Nottage
This paper aims at a comparative analysis of the dress code in two plays by contemporary American women playwrights, newyorican Migdalia Cruz's 1995 Fur and African-American Lynn Nottage's 2005 Intimate Apparel. The minority status of both playwrights becomes an autobiographical impetus for each play, where the contrast between performative nakedness and clothing serves as an extended metaphor for the mainstream American politics of labeling, cannibalizing, and attempting to culturally
... culturally assimilate the Other. The many forms by which Otherness appears in the plays—the freak, the marginal, the female, the poor, the single, the minority, the immigrant—are interwoven to show the complexity of identity issues stemming from a world violently (almost post-apocalyptically) thrown together by the capitalist globalized maelstrom. These find in the innovative interplay of nakedness and dress an ideally "suited" code to speak for that which, like our naked physicality, is always darkly proximate to the "civilized" self, yet only admitted into public view as abject and apotropaic spectacle, or as performative provocation. The plays offer a parodic performance on Lévi-Strauss's structuralist distinction between the Raw and the Cooked, showing how women/minorities are coaxed and "cooked" into clothes that define their victimized role, thus bringing alive on-stage the linguistic conjunction between a "well-dressed" meat and a "Naked Lunch." Once bared, Cruz's and Nottage's protagonists have nothing to fear anymore, while the art of sewing, initially seen as female creativity and empowerment, is revealed as a trap of Althusserian interpellation. Finally, the dress code of these plays works as an allegory for the nature of acting, and the tricky interplay between the costume-role and the "uniqueness" of the actor's personality and talent shining through onstage to sate the appetites of both consuming Dionysoi and audiences.