KICK cropped # 26

Joanna Rush in “Kick” Photo: Carol Roseg

By Beatrice Williams-Rude
A one-woman show? Rather, Kick is a kaleidoscope of finely etched characters and a tour de force for the astonishingly talented Joanna Rush who both wrote and performs it.

This is the memoir of a full life condensed to 90 minutes of laugh-out-loud misadventures. There doesn’t appear to be a trajectory except the chronological, but there is as will be made clear at the end.

A super-talented dancer and delightful mimic, Joanna Rush makes great use of her long, curly hair to help define the different characters. She plays herself, her mother, nuns, teachers, clergymen, friends of both sexes, husbands and assailants.

This dark comedy takes us through the life of “Bernie O’Connell” from parochial school and learning about sex from nuns, through myriad mishaps, most hilariously recounted.

References to the off-Broadway show, Let My People Come, brought big laughs, but there actually was such a show. It was by Earl Wilson, Jr., son of the columnist and it ran for years without officially opening, thus avoiding reviews.

Everything in this piece, however unlikely, seems to be true. Bernie O’Connell, read Joanna Rush, was a Rockette and production of this work is partially financed by The Rockette Alumnae Association. And there’s little doubt that this talented dancer was also in A Chorus Line.

It’s hard to remember a work in which the audience laughed so much. It was gentle laughter; the playwright has the courage and grace to laugh at herself.

But the comedy stops with the rapes. Raped once “shame on you”; raped twice “shame on me”?
We watch as Bernie grows, in wisdom, understanding, religious tolerance—Catholic, Protestant, Armenian, Buddhist, New Wave. But festering within her is the omnipresent consciousness of having been raped. She may say, may my past be like my ass, behind me, but it’s still with her. When, on her way back home from across the country, another rape attempt is made she is ready to die resisting her attacker and she’s rescued. (The original title of this work was Asking For It.)

There are more humorous anecdotes, then suddenly the explosion: the description of a rape. Not since Brendan Behan’s The Hostage, when the hostage is killed, have I seen such a dramatic change of sensibility. It was stunning. Devastating.

At the curtain call, the entire packed house erupted in cheers and there was a standing ovation that lasted for minutes.

Kick was sensitively and skillfully directed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, which must have been particularly difficult given that there’s not much in the way of a set. Special effects, primarily sound, were in the capable hands of Joachim Horsley.

Kick is being presented by Yonanda Productions & Piccolo Productions in association with Wendy Taucher Dance Opera Theater & Pasha Moore.
It is playing at St. Luke’s Theatre, 308 West 46th Street, NYC on Sundays at 7:00p.m.