This is a funny time for performance. On one hand the field is flooded with burned-out actors and stand-ups trying to copy Spalding Gray or Marga Gomez and turn their private pain into financial gain. On the other hand there are still plenty of hothouse avant-gardists creating utterly unwatchable work and calling it art. And then there are performers like Amy Ludwig, Rennie Sparks, and Julie Laffin. While each has a distinctive performance style, they share a gift for keeping the audience engaged. Ludwig has a sly, ironic wit. (“Aren’t you really sick of all this confessional theater?” she asks in Home Mov(i)es, before attempting to pass off clips from Wings, Patton, and Cinderella as scenes from her family life.) Sparks is a keen storyteller. And Laffin transforms the tedious tradition of body art into a surprisingly entertaining event just by adding a dash of physical comedy. In her untitled excerpt from Various States of D(u)ress, performed last weekend in an empty storefront and then along a two-block section of Division Street, Laffin drank from a bowl of black paint, kissed the window with paint-smeared lips, and walked up the street in a formal dress dragging a 20-foot train–all executed with the controlled, comic grace of Charlie Chaplin. Even the neighborhood kids who stopped to watch were fascinated. Splinter Group Studio, 1937 W. Division, 384-2241. Sunday, August 28, 8 PM. $7.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/JoAnn Seastrom.