Theatre Review: An Imaginative Way to Explore a History of Domestic Abuse

Nicole Burgio puts on an impressive performance in her one woman show xoxo Moongirl. The performance is a mixture of monologues, dance, and various types of circus performances. Ms. Burgio is not only a very accomplished circus artist, her static trapeze at the end of the show is absolutely stunning, but also a talented actress and comedian. The show starts off with Ms. Burgio standing alone on a rectangular table in the middle of the mostly bare stage, with her back toward the audience watching as she slowly walks backwards on the table toward a glass of milk at the edge. She sets the stage of her story by asking,

“Am I close? I always wanted to know what it would be like to push it further. Am I really at the edge?”

Photo by Daniel Kontz

Ms. Burgio’s story is one of childhood trauma marked by her father’s repeated domestic abuse of her mother, over things as small as a single grain of rice falling from her mother’s mouth onto the white carpet in the dining room. It is clear that Ms. Burgio uses her circus skills to cope with the situation. She goes from monologue to dance to monologue to acrobatics, and with every monologue we hear her family’s story through the lens of a different family member, herself as a child, her mother, her sister, and then back to Ms. Burgio but now as an adult who has had to move her mother and sister out of her father’s house in the middle of the night. Although Ms. Burgio’s circus skills were spectacular, I found the most compelling parts of her performance to be those monologues. Ms. Burgio is adept at using humor to tell her dark story in a way that is less jarring for the audience than it otherwise would be.

In addition to Ms. Burgio’s performance, all of the music is performed live by Mel Hsu, who also composed all of the original music herself. Throughout the show, she plays at least three different instruments and at one point performs a song made up entirely of her humming a hauntingly beautiful number. The set design is mostly bare with the stage set up of just the rectangular table in the middle, a circle hanging from the ceiling which depicts the moon or the earth depending on where Ms. Burgio is at that point in the show, and red silks to the side where Ms. Burgio performs an awe-inspiring silk routine tumbling like a child (or drunk adult) from the ceiling. There is also a very clever and oftentimes humorous use of props throughout the performance as well as some rather involved audience participation for two members of the audience.

Photo by Daniel Kontz

xoxo Moongirl is very well put together and produced. Mr. Burgio’s story is one that should be heard and the way she and Director Ben Grinberg spun it through the various difference sequences in the performance is very creative. I think there could be a little bit more of a connection between the circus/dance aspects and the monologues, but overall I found the performance to be very entertaining and powerful.


Almanac Dance Circus Theatre presents xoxo moongirl

Christ Church Neighborhood House

20 North American Street, Philadelphia, PA

June 28, 2018 at 8PM

$20, $15 for students/industry

Reviewed by Emma Dingle

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