I love Peggy Shaw: she is a performer that you want to see over and over again, maybe give her a hug and have a drink with after the show. Not only a brilliant writer, but a truly genuine performer—she is constantly there with you, in the moment, enjoying, giving, without a hint of irony or cynicism. She is the definition of a compassionate performer.
MUST: the inside story is no exception. Part anatomy lecture, part Beat reading, part Vegas lounge act, Shaw uses her biology as a touchstone to explore issues of birth, death, love, and intimacy. This is nothing new for her: in the past, Shaw has used allegories of biological determinism to expose the problems of gender, identity, and fate, such as You’re Just Like My Father.
Shaw’s words, co-written with Suzy Wilson, are the honest and somewhat oblique fare characteristic of Shaw’s body of work. (That’s right, Tweed uses puns unabashed.) We can an in-depth look at her skin cells, her bones, all in the service of the ever-evasive mind. She deftly maneuvers between a conversation with the audience, autobiographical reminiscence, and Tom-Waits-y songs about skeletons (see video), with delightful accompaniment from the Clod Ensemble.
But as always, the draw is Shaw’s persona. Her not-quite-virtuoso aesthetic is incredibly refreshing and charming. She is one of the few performers I feel that I really get to know through her performance. One doesn’t need a microscope, in the end, to get under Peggy’s skin. If anything, MUST is an obvious manifestation of Peggy’s work to date.