Katalin wants her audience to know that she has “seen the whole world at noon and at midnight and [this world] is beautiful.”
Aromas at the Alumnae Theatre, is a one-woman show that explores love, sex and identity through the eyes of a sex worker. The 75-minute production showcases Andy Fraser, who delivers an array of emotions and personas.
Katalin wanders through life dodging one identity by taking up many. After years of playing various characters for a professional skating production of Swan Lake, Katalin assumes a vixen persona, identifying herself as Chanel.
Fraser's warm presence on stage brings wholesomeness to the topic of sex work – a topic so often wrongfully vilified. Katalin is a born storyteller, reflecting on her travels and questioning the choices she made in her life.
The show travels back and forth in time, providing background on Katalin’s teenage years, where she was abused, and her present years where she befriends the calloused Angela. Of course Angela happens to be the very same bully who put Katalin in the hospital years prior. Fraser nails Angela’s harsh New York Italian accent perfectly. These transitions allow the audience a greater look into Katalin’s hang-ups with self-esteem and emotional intimacy.
The show takes a solid 20 minutes to really begin. The first half relies heavily on repetition and results in a “so-what” atmosphere. Before Katalin goes out to meet with her clients, Fraser puts on a new article of clothing, pauses to look at the audience and dramatically delivers the line “showtime.” During this time there is a poor quality horn sound bite. Overall, the musical selection needed improvement. At certain points the music reminded me of a poorly recorded 16th Century Robin Hood overture.
The show tackles the topics of female oppression and empowerment through Katalin’s descriptive stories of other troubled dancers. About halfway through the production, Aromas blossoms into a TED talk style of narrative surrounding self-knowledge. Katalin describes the years where she formed one of her closest bonds to a mother and her son.
Playwright Andrew Faiz wowed the audience during this part of the play where Katalin spoke of her experience providing physical and emotional intimacy and support to an adolescent living with a disability. This story worked to break down social stigma against both sex workers and people with disabilities, as it showcased every human being's right to experience love through physical intimacy.
Aromas provides the audience with the take home message of autonomy through honesty – the mantra that you can transform yourself to expand your personal character as long as your intentions are not to escape your initial character. The play is able to deliver this message wholesomely without appearing the slightest bit preachy. Although the actual stage direction needed some polishing, I found the play very intriguing.