2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Review: ‘Speculum Diaries’


In the opening moments of Speculum Diaries, Irina Varina’s self-portrait-in-motion now playing at 1fiftyOne gallery, she bashfully confesses, “This is the story of a happy girl.” She adds, however, that it may be, “Hard to define.” Loneliness and alienation—the elusive specters inhabiting Speculum Diaries’ tender environs—rarely are.

Irina Varina in 'Speculum Diaries.' Photo by David Brick.
Irina Varina in ‘Speculum Diaries.’ Photo by David Brick.

Originally conceived as a three-minute living diary, Speculum Diaries has since blossomed into a full-length imaginative feast, documenting Irina’s internal idiosyncrasies.

Pulling back the curtain in her mind for us, she reveals a woman—powerful and fragile—with a dreamy disposition, and a lust for chocolate. She playfully bounds about the small stage like an amateur ballerina. All the while casting an imposing shadow which loomed over the performance and, in a way, haunted her—the embodiment of Irina’s artistic self-doubt.

However, Speculum Diaries’ flirtatious dark side is tempered with ample amounts of Irina’s intimate and charming pantomime. She writhes about the floor spooning the imaginary lover she longs for. She uses peanut M&Ms to reenact scenes from a book she enjoyed. She shouts through an antique speculum like a microphone. She even sings a lullaby to her vagina, that is equal parts admonishment and apology.

Speculum Diaries is in many ways like a drunken conversation between intimate friends, Irina and her audience; unedited and unashamed. It is the ruminations of a person caught between two worlds—a dream world filled with pleasure and warmth, and a real world that is all too often, absent of both.


Running Time: 60 minutes, with no intermission.

Speculum Diaries plays September 14th at 7 pm, September 17th at 5 pm, September 19th at 6 pm, September 22nd at 7 pm, September 23rd at 6 pm, and September 24th at 2 pm at The 2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival performing at 1fiftyOne gallery + art space – 3312 Kensington Avenue in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call the box office at (215) 413 1318, or purchase them online.


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