“Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and me.” Amber Topaz captures the audience’s attention, not only with the memorable Salt‑N‑Pepa lyric, but also by strutting confidently into the sultry red light cast on the stage. From the very first impression she makes to her final bow, Ms. Topaz entrances the audience and brings them with her on the loud, colorful, intimate rollercoaster that is “The Rude Awakening. Sex, Shame & Liberation.” Almost immediately, Ms. Topaz declares that shows are like sex: “you definitely want a happy ending.” There is absolutely nothing apologetic or shameful about “The Rude Awakening” and Ms. Topaz proves that sometimes that is exactly how it should be. She works hard to ensure that the audience’s experience is fun, comfortable and engaged. She not only leads them in chants and invites them to bounce in their seats, but concludes her performance by giving each and every single audience member a hug, stressing the benefits of physical touch. Most memorable among her audience engagement tactics, though, was the “womb of truth,” a bright red fanny pack full of relevant questions from the audience that she answered on stage. Ms. Topaz made liberal use of musical numbers, much in the vein of burlesque performance, to find still more ways to engage the audience and address sex. Whether discussing menstruation or exploring the secret thoughts of a German dominatrix, Ms. Topaz sang earnestly and honestly. Interestingly, her musical numbers were most potent when stripped down (pun intended), as in the final song. Ms. Topaz removed her makeup while singing about the importance of self‑worth in the face of societal pressures. It was moving, lovely and all the more striking for its simplicity. Ms. Topaz is clearly in her element. She delivers rapid‑fire raunchy puns with knowing winks, laughs at herself as much as at sex, and takes every opportunity to crack up the audience with witty one‑liners and amusing anecdotes. Sex is never treated as a taboo, and she emphasizes the need for positivity and education in order to experience the best of sex and ourselves. From a title like “The Rude Awakening,” one might expect lewdness, bawdiness or shocking content. While these are certainly present, they serve a message of positivity, acceptance and liberation. Similarly, from the title alone, one might not expect tenderness, gentle acceptance, or compassionate positivity. However, that’s exactly what elevates the performance and leaves the most lasting impression. “The Rude Awakening” is a joyous, shameless and wholehearted embrace of sexuality, with all the variety and weirdness that comes with it. “The Rude Awakening. Sex, Shame & Liberation” Written and Performed by Amber Topaz Nov. 10 at 7:30pm Show image by Veronika Marx United Solo 2018 Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street New York City
CHANCE MORGAN is a writer and director currently based in New Jersey. He has worked for Dorset Theatre Festival, Northern Stage, and Bay Street Theatre. He is a graduate of Colorado Mesa University’s theatre program, and spends his time developing his screenplays and musicals.