YAPPING OUT LOUD written and performed by Mirha-Soleil Ross, directed by Nicole Stamp. Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). Runs to December 5, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $15-$20, Sunday pwyc. 416-975-8555. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Yapping Out Loud is several kinds of presentation shoehorned into one production. Part rant, part comic send-up, part heartfelt memorial to the dead, Mirha-Soleil Ross's solo show, directed by Nicole Stamp, wants to make a point, but it doesn't always do so in a dramatically convincing way.
A transsexual performer, sex worker and animal rights activist, the French-Canadian Ross offers a spirited defence of prostitution against all attackers, be they feminists, social workers or cops.
In a series of scenes, she takes on various roles (the head of a feminist organization, a grad student hosting a cable show and, most chillingly, a masked man hunting street prostitutes), offering impassioned, sometimes satire-based arguments for her case.
Interwoven with these are personal recollections about her own history, reactions to the men who hire her and sadness over the murder of fellow transsexual prostitutes. Frequently touching, tinged with humour and a bit of poetry, these sections often work more successfully than do the overt role-playing episodes.
In Ross's political theatre, politics is frequently writ large and theatre writ small. Her creation of a R.E.A.L.-type feminist organization whose hissing leader is out to "save" prostitutes, whether they want to be rescued or not, is delivered in such rapid-fire, machine-gun style that it shoots by too quickly and at such a pitch that the argument disappears into the intentionally assaultive, shrill tone.
Ross uses a similar broad style, leavened with more humour, as host of Co-Existing With Prostitutes, a cable show that discusses sex-trade workers as if they were wild animals invading the neighbourhood and offers tips on how to make the neighbourhood safe again.
That animal imagery continues in the performance's most haunting scene, in which a hooded man, a self-professed prostitute exterminator, soberly talks about the thrill of the hunt and his serial killing as "the future of whore management." A video behind him shows grinning buddies gunning down coyotes. It's a chilling parallel, one that works emotionally and dramatically, with the added metaphoric allusion to the prostitutes' rights organization COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics).
There's outspoken bravery in Ross's show, an anger that takes its criticism of a misogynistic society into areas that some viewers won't agree with. Yet while Yapping Out Loud pushes hot buttons, it doesn't always work as theatre.