Isabella Rossellini explores animal sexuality in a new stage adaptation of her film series Green Porno, written by Jean-Claude Carrière and directed by Muriel Mayette-Holtz, at Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Isabella Rossellini explores animal sexuality in a new stage adaptation of her film series Green Porno, written by Jean-Claude Carrière and directed by Muriel Mayette-Holtz, at Brooklyn Academy of Music.
(© Rebecca Greenfield)

Isabella Rossellini has worn many hats throughout her career. As a model, she was the face of the French cosmetics house Lancome. As an actress, she has appeared in film roles ranging from nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens in Blue Velvet to Lisle von Rhoman, the keeper of the fountain of youth, in Death Becomes Her. As an activist, she has long been associated with protecting and conserving wildlife.

That interest is what led her to the creation of Green Porno, a Sundance Channel series of short films where she re-creates the mating rituals of various animals species. Written, directed, and produced by the multitalented Rossellini, Green Porno was most successful in its transmission of knowledge. Rossellini never dumbed anything down; instead, she just added bits of comedy like expensive-looking costumes made entirely out of paper and cardboard.

With the help of director Muriel Mayette-Holtz and French playwright Jean-Claude Carrière (best known in this country for his and Peter Brook's nine-hour stage play The Mahabharata), Rossellini has translated Green Porno to the stage in the form of a 75-minute monologue, running through January 25 at the BAM Fisher.

Watching Green Porno on stage resembles a college course. Dressed in all black and wearing a microphone that gives her lilting, Italian-accented voice just a hint of artificiality, Rossellini spends most of her time talking from behind a lectern, notes in a black binder before her. "[This] is not a pornographic conference," she promises towards the beginning, before taking a pregnant pause. "It is obscene, yes" she continues, infusing the brand of deadpan humor that will pop up throughout. While Rossellini notes that people might become aroused — depending on their taste, of course — she promises that the evening won't end in a giant orgy. (True to her word, it doesn't.)

One's enjoyment of Green Porno, which blends Rossellini in person with several of her brief films, depends solely on how much one cares about the mating rituals of dolphins, snails, flies, and so on. If you're squeamish around words like "penis" and "vagina," simulations of genitalia, or fun factoids like how, compared to the size of their bodies, barnacles have the biggest penises in the animal kingdom, this evening probably isn't for you.

If that's your jam, you'll derive much enjoyment as you watch the enchanting Rossellini relish in the subject matter, describing it in great detail (in fact, she's currently getting a master's degree in animal behavior at Hunter). Staged with its tongue firmly implanted in its cheek, the evening enjoyably flits by with many belly laughs and a whole lot of knowledge gained. It never truly escapes that collegey feeling, but it is good to go back to school every now and then.