In Pie Solo, Pioneer Winter Strips and Self-Flagellates

Last weekend, Miami Theater Center's Sandbox Series presented the first of a three-weekend run of Pie Solo, Pioneer Winter's "quarter-life" reinterpretation of the one-man show. The multimedia event is an autobiographical foray into Winter's personal, family, religious, and queer history told in stages with contemporary dance, tap, a sax solo, humor, storytelling, projected film, stripping, and a pin-board of jockstraps redeemable for a discount to an upcoming show.

Winter describes the work as the "story of a young performer who straddles the line between exhaustion and exhilaration." Faith, religion, parentage, and his own coming out are exposed here like a raw nerve as nakedly as his bare bum.

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There is a moment in a litany of self-assessed shortcomings when Winter apologizes for being only 25. Whatever you think of his youth, it is impossible not to climb the peaks and sink into the depths of all that Winter portrays from his quarter-century life.

The space in the black-box theater and the format of the show are extremely intimate, and the audience is made acutely aware of Winter's vulnerability and tension, all served with less than subtle coyness. At one point while wearing only his jock, he goes to the theater's door and opens it just feet away from the street and the passing cars. As he progressively reveals more skin and anecdotes from his life, there was an increasing desire to make sure the door was locked so no one would walk in on this hyper-real and revealing hour draped in the artifice of a stage show.

Highlights of the performance include Winter's breakdown of a football scrimmage, whose offensive line includes religion, prohibition, dogma, and his mother. On the defense were otherness, identity, gayness, his father, and faith. Later, Winter comes out playing a saxophone and grabs an audience member, nestling the man between himself and the instrument as he escorts the mature gentleman to a small stage behind a red curtain. Whether this was staged or not, one could not be sure, but both the humor and iconography of Winter washing the man's feet, drying them with his hair, and massaging them with lotion was worthy of any Magdalena portrayed through the years.

Another moment is his mind-boggling rhythm tap duet between himself and a projected version of himself, both shown from the knees down while sitting on a toilet, one virtual and one real. There was also the aforementioned wall of jockstraps following Winter's own retelling of his first, pre-adolescent jock as he invites the audience to take one and pass on to a friend, which they could redeem for a discounted ticket at the next scheduled performance. Audience members can also just bring one of their own jocks.

In contrast to the more humorous episodes, and in a segment where artifice moves into uncomfortable reality, Winter flogs himself with a paint-mixing stick like a penitent monk of old. After apologizing for his age, his queerness, his lack of activism -- among other self-professed faults -- he smacks his arm with enough force to break the plank several times and then takes the remaining jagged edge of the wood and bores it into the bare flesh of his chest, leaving the visible marks of this instrument of self-flagellation. From Magdalena to penitent, the theme of the subservient sinner seeking absolution continues to echo.

Finally, exhausted and spent, Winter takes his former page of written apologies and tears off pieces, as one by one he bequests to members of the audience his personal affects, including his boyfriend, and his personal history -- a history where "all [he] wants to do is please you."

Intense stuff.

Despite the many compelling and entertaining aspects that swim between projected media and live performance, the true heart of this piece lives in the interactive dialogue, when Winter shares those intimate stories, a quarter-life of defending just being "other."

Pie Solo runs Fridays and Saturdays through March 30 at 8 p.m. at MTC, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores. Tickets cost $20. Visit mtcmiami.org or call 305-751-9550.

-- Miguel Angel Estefan Jr., artburstmiami.com

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