Toward the end of her rambunctious and profound one-woman show, Ida Cuttler spins back to a recurring theme in the 80-minute production: the power of storytelling to keep women safe. As Cuttler notes, stories kept Scheherazade from being murdered by a rapist king who decreed he’d wed a different woman each night, killing each new bride the morning after the nuptials. Scheherazade is hardly the only woman to use stories to justify her existence and as a means to create boundaries where men believe none exist.
Stories are “our tricks,” Cuttler says. “We use them like Scheherazade, in bed, in bars, in Lyfts. We don’t know how we know them. We don’t remember a time when we didn’t know them.” Then she presents an idea that sucks the air out of the room. What if women didn’t have to tell stories? What if we knew we could be safe in our silence, sure that people believed us—or believed in us—without an endlessly exhausting stream of verbiage meant to justify our very existence?
It’s a stunning moment, one of many that Cuttler creates in a show (directed by Halena Kays and featuring violinist Katie Klocke) that she instills with the energy of a whirling dervish tornadoing through a shop filled with Russian nesting dolls.
Cuttler’s perpetual motion matches the rapid-fire delivery of her script. With the athleticism of a track star, she leaps, climbs, springs, and swings as she draws a line from Scheherazade to the back seat of a ride service to the halls of power where Wendy Davis filibustered for 11 hours in an attempt to prevent the Texas senate from passing draconian restrictions on abortion rights.
Initially, Comfortable Shoes seems comfortably wacky, an inspired bit of high-octane silliness. Cuttler leaps and gallops around set designer Dominique Zaragoza’s expansive bedsheet fort, supersized to accommodate adult shenanigans, complete with a reveal that’s like a Beach Blanket Bingo-inspired New Year’s Eve balloon drop. As the words ride atop Klocke’s churning melodic current of Rimsky-Korsakov and original compositions, Cuttler pulls the audience in her wake.
She points out the obvious: like countless women before and after her, Scheherazade is remembered the way male historians wrote her. History is bulimic, Cuttler continues. It eats women and spits them out, rendering them as invisible as the bones of a rotisserie chicken gorged in secret and surreptitiously hidden in the neighbor’s trash. It’s an analogy with the clarity of a hard slap. It’s also hilarious, provided you don’t think about it too much.
You could say the same for all of Comfortable Shoes. Cuttler’s dizzying pace never slows. By the time she sends 16 dangling nesting dolls spinning like tiny pinatas, your heart and mind will also be spinning. It might sound on the nose to call their revolutions revolutionary. But it’s also accurate. v