(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 10/14.)

The grieving didn’t stop when the memorial services ended. Three decades after AIDS first cut a swath through her Manhattan, killing many of the people she was closest to, the performance artist Karen Finley still wears her sorrow like an open wound.

It is a loud, angry and public sorrow — the kind that insists on expression in wails and howls that grab at the viscera of anyone within hearing distance. “I relive all my friends’ deaths over and over and over again till it’s all one big death,” Ms. Finley says, and there’s such thunder in her voice, you half expect the skies to open in a “Lear”-like deluge of empathy.

That declaration comes from a piece that was first performed by Ms. Finley 20 years ago. But in “Written in Sand,” her new show at the Baruch Performing Arts Center, she speaks the words with the rawness of someone discovering them for the first time and being jolted by how much they hurt. It feels impolite for you to keep looking at and listening to this grief-deranged woman. But then, it would be even ruder to turn away.


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