Through Saturday, Jan. 20
The Fruit, Durham

There’s something about preparing for a debutante ball while caked in blood. (Maybe you would see it as something else, but I can’tthe deep blue of the party dress against the red smeared on the skin.)

But Imago, the character Nicola Bullock inhabits in her new work of the same name, doesn’t seem preoccupied by it. By the time she announces that she’s going to “debutante herself,” claiming the coming-of-age party she never had, she has already dropped down from The Fruit’s ceiling in a mask and metamorphosed from writhing organism to biped, dancing around the stage like a bug under glass. (“Imago” is an entomological term, referring to a fully developed adult insect, as well as a psychoanalytical one.)

Imago, Bullock writes, transpires “in the shadows”in the messy, shrouded in-between of the social poses expected of people, particularly women. But there is a method to the mess. With rigorous precision, Bullock rips pages out of a women’s magazine, crumples them up, and shoves them under her armpits and bodice, like a scarecrow stuffed with advice columns.

Later, we gather around her offstage. This debutante’s coming-out party, which has a double meaning for a “queer, non-monogamous, almost middle-aged woman,” includes an invitation to us to hurl water balloons at her as she dances to Britney Spears’s “Circus.” But only, she instructs, during one of the four choruses. Only then! It’s a mess forestalled and made legible. I throw a balloon, as most people around me do, and feel queasy. Bullock scream-giggles as the balloons break against her skin, washing the red awaybut not completely.

What’s in Imago‘s shadows? Whenever you feel you’re about to grasp the weirdness between the poses, between the scream and the giggle, it’s already gone. This is what the piece does best: it throws a spotlight on what’s hidden while insisting, Wait, there’s more, there’s more, there’s more.