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"S/he' crosses gender lines

Choreographer Jane Comfort doesn't break ground in S/he, but she does make the insights of feminism obvious and true through a game of gender switcheroo that is freewheeling, funny and thought-provoking.

Comfort's company performed Thursday as part of the Florida Dance Festival, and S/he will be repeated at 8 tonight.

In the opening, Comfort and Andre Shoals do a tongue-in-cheek lip-synch to a rap song by Positive K. In the song, a man tries to get the attention of a woman by show-boating while she rebuffs his advances with the refrain, "I got a man." Comfort dresses as the man in big, baggy clothes and a fake beard, and Shoals towers over her in wig, heels, false eyelashes and silky black lingerie. Comfort swaggers and struts, and Shoals undulates in place.

As the song draws to an end, Shoals and Comfort remove their costumes and change into gender-appropriate outfits. From the start, Comfort demonstrates how deeply our feelings about masculinity and femininity are based in costumes as exterior to ourselves as the costumes she and Shoals remove.

S/he is more than just a play on the insight that a transvestite brings to his illusion. By reversing the roles handed out to each gender, Comfort throws into relief the unfairness and absurdity of some of our assumptions.

When a pregnant man is demoted to supervising people running a copy machine, his impassioned tirade is dismissed with that time-worn sexist putdown, "You're hysterical."

At home, the man is humiliated by his wife, who finds a stuffed animal left on the living room floor by their band of wild children , confirming he is too incompetent and worthless to manage a real job.

When he tries to regain his dignity by refusing to pick up the toy, a beating follows that makes him know whose point of view dominates their little domestic world.

Comfort's company of seven dancers are a mix of different shapes, sizes, races and backrounds. Comfort uses their singing, dancing and acting to create a show that is as entertaining and accessible as musical theater, with a political punch.


Jane Comfort and Company

Performing S/he. Repeated at 8 tonight at the University of South Florida's Fine Arts Theater I on the Tampa campus. Tickets are $10 and $15. Call 974-2323 or 974-1099.