Sunday, August 15, 2010

That Fading Scent

DVD Review

Written and performed by Judith Black. Available for $15.00 from To book the one-woman show, contact Judith Black at

Reviewed by Linda Goodman

Okay, I admit it. I am a HUGE fan of Judith Black. She is brilliant, funny, energetic, innovative, talented, charismatic and unapologetically bold. As if that were not enough, she is extraordinarily versatile. As many times as I have seen her on stage, she has never been the same person twice. She takes her audiences through of range of emotions that can leave them contemplative, angry, or ready to rock. Sometimes she leaves me exhausted, but still I want more

I saw the maiden voyage of Black’s one-woman show That Fading Scent a few years back at the National Storytelling Conference in Pittsburgh, where it was presented as one of the fringe performances. The performance brought the audience to its feet on several occasions. Those of us who were women of a certain age cheered to at last find a spokesperson who was not afraid to defend our menopausal madness. When the show was over we all danced together. I wanted to shout from the rooftop: We’re Old! We’re Bold! Get used to it!

The show, now available on DVD, consists of three stories, two rants, and a song. In her incredibly funny intro, Black compares seeking advice from mainstream medical practitioners to “putting your money in a Vegas slot machine.” This transitions smoothly into a rant about the absurdity of forcing oneself to be sexy at sixty, when there are so many other things that are more important. Are you listening, AARP? We want real people on your covers, not surgical clones!

The first story on the DVD is Three Mothers (Snow White through the generations), an intense tale of three aging mothers who are watching their own beauty fade, just as their daughters’ beauty is beginning to blossom. Like the evil fairy tale queen, they “cajole, contract, or commission a man to commit homicide.” Beauty triumphs, however, and the cycle begins anew. “Am I still the prettiest?” youth frantically asks the mirror in the heartbreaking finale.

Marjorie’s New Reign/Rain is an original fairy tale about an environmentally conscious dame who is suddenly beset by a cloud that stations itself above her head and will not go away. Luckily, three female cloud busters offer their services and take her to a medieval cottage where they use “magical interventions” to help her find her compass. Baking, gardening, exercise, and social activism make appearances along the way.

A second rant deals with the side effects of hormone replacement therapy and birth control. The audience chants “kill the witch!” as a refrain. I saw this rise to a fever pitch in Pittsburgh. Clearly, Black has touched upon an issue that has some women concerned about more than eternal youth and beauty.

Queen Crone, who wears a pink chemise because “at my age it shouldn’t matter what my body looks like,” brings this DVD to a close. A super hero, she fights super villains Estrogena, Middle-Aged Monster Men (forty-five to sixty-five year old men who dump their wives for younger trophy women), and Pharmaceutical Giants in her quest to make it okay for women to be old. As she flies away from her triumphs, people ask, “Who was that woman?” The answer, of course, is “our future.”

As good as this DVD is, being part of a live audience for this show is an incomparable experience. The good news is that Black is willing to travel. If she is not coming to your neck of the woods, find a group or an organization that is able to book her and convince its program chair to do it. You will not be sorry.

Did I mention that I am a HUGE fan of Judith Black? Somebody get this woman an HBO special!

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