The Duchess of Windsor–yes, that Duchess of Windsor–once said, “You can never be too rich or too thin.”
This quote must have stuck in Sheila Callaghan‘s craw while she wrote Everything You Touch. Theatre Vertigo‘s production, now onstage at the intimate Shoebox Theatre, is a play about a narcissistic, body-shaming 1970s New York fashion designer named Victor (Aaron Cooper Swor), his “muse” Esme (Adriana Gantzer), and the young, full-figured Jess (Kaia Maarja Hillier) who is down on herself because of her size.
Little good can be said about Victor, who screams, rants, and berates his models and the fawning Esme during the preview of his 1974 spring collection. Flash forward 30 years, we meet Jess and her business associate Lewis (R. David Wyllie) taking a burrito break from work.
On a visit to a bar, Jess meets and takes home a man named Victor–a fellow who looks and behaves just like the fashion designer of 30 years ago. While the situation is far from ideal, this version of Victor agrees to return to her home town to visit her estranged dying mother, and surrealism creeps into the drama. Back in Victor’s studio, 1975, Esme gets the boot and Louella (Shandi Muff) replaces her as Victor’s muse. Wimberley Marshall, Jess Perry, and Justin Charles fill the roles of models.
Everything You Touch director Jessie Hirschhorn calls the play “a story about breaking the cycle” of body-shaming. “I hope that this story can help anyone who is struggling with their own body to remember that the journey begins with learning to accept and love the skin you’re in.”
Additional credits go to Jessie Hirschhorn for costume and prop design; Kaia Maarja Hillier, co-costume design; Kristen Kraklow, stage manager; Devon Roberts, lighting design; Jacquelle Davis, assistant lighting design; Nathan Crosby, scenic design; and London Bauman, sound design.
This play was disturbing and yet important for me to watch. Like many women my age, I was body-shamed at an early age. Though most of my discomfort with who I am was a product of the opinions of my parents and the rigid culture of the times, it has taken me decades to be at peace with myself. I am grateful to the playwright for providing voice to those who have experienced body-shaming and to show the shamers for what they are.
Everything You Touch continues its run through March 28 at the Shoebox Theatre, 2110 SE 10th Ave., Portland 97214.