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Body hair. Everyone has it somewhere, but not everyone agrees on what to do with it. In Natural Novice, actor and playwright Siobhan O’Loughlin explores societal attitudes toward body hair on women and inhabits a myriad of characters from different backgrounds to showcase how experience and conviction shape those attitudes.
Natural Novice is a one-person show that follows a woman from a Vermont commune who moves to New York City. She doesn’t shave – anywhere – and she tells the audience stories of her friends and acquaintances and how their body hair has affected their lives. O’Loughlin doesn’t just tell, though. She becomes each of the many characters, who range from a sorority girl who relives a horrific last-minute bikini wax to a transgender female who struggles with her self-image to a Muslim woman of color from Australia who discusses how her faith affects her treatment of body hair.
O’Loughlin effortlessly portrays each character – of which there are nearly a dozen – and gives sincerity and depth to each of them. Sound and lighting cues help her transition from character to character, and her control of body language, facial expression and voice is impressive. The 60-minute show is surprisingly expansive for a play that consists of one woman and a chair, although the stories do get somewhat repetitive. O’Loughlin and the sound crew both struggled with lines and cues a few times, but O’Loughlin assured the audience after the preview showing that the kinks would be worked out before Natural Novice opens on Friday.
Overall, Natural Novice is a compelling exploration of society’s attitudes toward women and their bodies that seeks to break stereotypes and encourage acceptance of all women, not just those who inhabit Victoria’s Secret advertisements.