Review by Ken Kaissar
Written and performed by Jasmine Pittenger; Directed by Mary Catherine Donnelly
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 8.28.15
VENUE #4: Spectrum, 121 Ludlow Street
BOTTOM LINE: A moving and inspiring story of a woman coming to terms with her body, and the tour around the world on which this process takes her.
Jasmine Pittenger has a big ass. She knows it, she owns it, and she’s proud of it. Near the opening of her solo show My Ass (In the World), she bends over and shakes it so we can all appreciate the impetus for our gathering in this beautiful NYC apartment that’s been converted into a performance space.
When Pittenger was a teenager, she was told that no one would ever love her because of her “humungous butt.” Pittenger dreamed of taking a knife to her tush and cutting it off. Thankfully, she did something much more sensible: she left the country. At the age of 17, she moved to Brazil where she found a different attitude towards rear ends. Pittenger learned that she need not be trapped by an American definition of beauty. In many other cultures, a big derriere is not just considered beautiful, but the feature of a goddess. It wasn’t Pittenger’s body that needed altering, just her point of view.
After her experience in Brazil, she was determined to spend her life globetrotting to learn more about the lives of women in different parts of the world. Eventually she became a UN spokeswoman, and her work took her to Darfur where she would help refugees escape unspeakable atrocity. She tells horrific tales of genital mutilation and draws parallels with what she once dreamed of doing to her behind.
Pettinger is a strong and brave woman. She has knowingly put herself in harm’s way for humanitarian efforts and is no stranger to near-death experiences. Her story is moving and inspiring, and she tells it with a buoyant spirit and an endless supply of humor. My only criticism is that the show is just a little too short. At only about 50 minutes, Pettinger clearly has time to offer a stronger conclusion. Her performance ends with a heroic tale in which she is held at gunpoint at the hands of a young boy. Her refusal to dehumanize the boy is precisely what helped her survive. But I found myself hazy and hungry for the details on exactly how she got out of that situation. The dangers of dehumanizing people is perhaps what links her humanitarian efforts to the catalyst that sent her off on this journey in the first place, i.e., her big ass. But if that’s the point that Pettinger is making, I would have liked to hear her articulate it as the final thought.
If you’re looking for an inspiring human interest story that’ll give you a fresh take on body image, don’t miss Jasmine Pittenger inMy Ass (In the World).
(My Ass (In the World): A True Story of Love, War, Taliban... and Dirty Lambada Dancing plays at VENUE #4: Spectrum, 121 Ludlow Street, through August 28, 2015. Performances are Sun 8/16 at 8; Thu 8/20 at 2; Sun 8/23 at 6; Thu 8/27 at 9; and Fri 8/28 at 4:30. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit myassintheworld.com.)