You might have heard that Still Standing You involves two men manipulating each other's penises. This is true. (To give you a hint of what you'll see, there are certain tricks that could not be performed on a circumcised man).
But to put undue focus on these aspectsâthe nudity, the physical intimacy, the bodily fluidsâisnât fair. Still Standing You (part of PICA's Time-Based Art Festival) is about many things, and shock value is the least of them.
Fridayâs performance began with Pieter Ampe flat on his back, legs up in the air, with Guilherme Garrido sitting atop Ampeâs feet. They are, at this point, fully clothed, in jeans and T-shirts. Garrido, whoâs from Portugal (Ampe is Belgian), riffed garrulously about Portlandâs friendliness and peculiarities, in a way often seen from out-of-town performers but in a loose manner not at all pandering. Sure, there was a joke about vegan strip clubs: Garrido asked after the name, to which half the audience hollered âCasa Diablo!â âWow, a lot of vegans in the audience!â Garrido responded. âI am quite enthusiastic about this. Tofu and a lap dance!â
After a brief announcement (or warning?) that a contemporary dance piece is to follow, Garrido tumbles to the floor, landing hard. And what proceeds is indeed contemporary dance, with plenty of theatricality and (mostly non-verbal) vocalization. Ampe and Garrido reminded me of little boys playing out their most savage fantasies or imagining themselves as WWE competitorsâthey growl, grunt, snort, huff and hiss at one another. (âItâs like my house all day,â the woman next to me remarked. âI have two young sons.â) At times they work in tandem and embrace each other to become a many-limbed beast or a human seesaw, but more often theyâre oppositional. At one point, Garrido stands over a prostrate Ampe and drips saliva onto his forehead. In another moment, Ampe drags Garrido to a back corner and squats on his back, clawing and growling at the audienceâheâs a believable lion, with a seriously massive reddish beard standing in for a mane. Itâs as silly and funny and playful as it sounds, but thereâs much more hereâpower, control, competition, pain, risk.
I hesitate to provide more details about Still Standing You, because part of what makes the piece so astonishing is its steady stream of surprises. There are hilarious bits, as when Ampe removes his socks with his teeth or when the two men flounce about the stage like preening birds. But by the time the men strip fully downâand, yes, twist and pull at each otherâs penisesâmuch of the humor has been supplanted by deep tenderness. Minutes earlier, Garrido had stuffed Ampeâs Superman underpants into his mouth. Now, in these final tableaus, they drape their bodies over one another, each man folded in half, and exchange gentle kisses. Itâs intimate and lovely and physically idiosyncratic, a beautiful ending to an astounding piece.
SEE IT: Still Standing You is at the Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway. 6:30 pm Saturday, Sept. 14. $20-$25. All ages. More details here.