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all photos: Aditya Banerjee
all words: Deb Greenspan

The stage was set with a chair, a clothing rack, an empty plastic bucket, and a table set with honey, salt, pepper and a bowl of beef jerky. People murmured to each other in the dark of Phase 1 last Friday, guessing the purpose of each prop and waiting for Ms. Honeysuckle Hype’s one-woman-show Eat Your Heart Out to begin. Once it did, they were taken on a roller coaster ride of comedy and solemnity, in which good old-fashioned burlesque was mixed with a multimedia retrospective of Honeysuckle’s travels and meat-related travails.

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Honeysuckle began the show with her warm-up routine, an oddly captivating mix of yoga and theatrical poses. Dressed in a starlet’s robe, she then walked the crowd through her travels to a slaughterhouse in Texas, vividly and precisely describing the process of slaughter and butchering as though from a kinder, gentler textbook. A switch to traditional burlesque broke the show up nicely; rather than taking off a layer, Honeysuckle made putting clothes on a sensual experience.

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What made this performance truly stand out was the audience participation encouraged by the host. Honeysuckle coaxed three members of the audience onstage to – ready for this? – grate an onion between her legs. As she stared down at them from her perch, she asked them questions, some simple, some probing, about food, sex, life and fears. The conversations that ensued were both hilarious and poignant. At another point in the show, mid-strip-tease, Honeysuckle stopped the music, the stage went dark and she proceeded to photograph parts of her body, allowing the audience to ask her questions about each. Again, the intimacy of this moment set the room buzzing.

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Honeysuckle Hype brought a bit of everything. She was a teacher, a meat connoisseur, a chef, a therapist and a sexy seductress. All in all, the perfect model for a 1950’s lesbian housewife.

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