Censorship, unicorns, sexism—no topic is too sensitive or outrageous for Karen Finley. The Chicago native will visit Steppenwolf for a pair of shows: Written in Sand, on February 10 and 11, and Unicorn Gratitude Mystery, on February 17 and 18.
This Friday and Saturday, Finley presents Written in Sand, a spoken-word performance of her writings from the 1980s and ’90s, which criticize the homophobia and governmental indifference surrounding the AIDS crisis. Informed by Finley’s own experiences, the show commemorates the hundreds of thousands of AIDS victims in America who lost their lives during the peak of the epidemic. Many of Finley’s pieces have been staples in her performance repertoire for decades; a number of them were censored by the National Endowment for the Arts and led to her famous 1998 Supreme Court case against the organization.
The following weekend, Finley returns to the theater for a presentation of her one-woman show Unicorn Gratitude Mystery. The production exposes the complicated intersections of psychology, sex, and gender seen throughout the 2016 presidential election. Finley first enters the stage as a sequin-clad unicorn and returns for the second act as an apologetic, overly thankful rendition of Hillary Clinton—a satirical portrait, representative of the excessive gratitude and politeness female politicians are expected to command when they run for office. The show hits its peak in the third act, when Finley dons an ill-fitting suit and red baseball cap for a ruthless, unrestrained impression of Trump that rips at his numerous lies and hypocrisies.
Written in Sand, Fri 2/10-Sat 2/11, 8 PM; Unicorn Gratitude Mystery, Fri 2/17-Sat 2/18, 8 PM, Steppenwolf Theatre, 1700 Theatre, 1700 N. Halsted, 312-335-1650, steppenwolf.org, $25.