Five Lesbians Eating A Quiche: Political Cuisine

Excellent politics, so-so theater.


click to enlarge Five Lesbians Eating A Quiche: Political Cuisine
Brian McNay
5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche
3 out of 5 stars
$30. Through June 26; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. Stageworks, 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. 813-374-2416. stageworkstheatre.org.

Amusing and bold as it is, Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood’s 5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche is more an act of political assertion — lesbian self-assertion, to be specific — than it is a complete and satisfying evening of stage art. Relying on intermittently funny camp humor, offering only a beginning of a plot, this is comedy with a message, and if you want something more — meaningful character development, ingenious plotting, memorable dialogue, for example — you’re not going to find it. Fortunately, the current Stageworks production is well-acted and beautifully designed, and there are a few delightfully silly moments to distract us from the fact that this melody has few notes. If you’re anxious about your identity, if you need the catharsis of seeing five women avow their lesbianism proudly and unequivocally, then this is the play for you. But if you’re coming to the theater just to be entertained (or even enlightened), take care: This pageant has none of the inventiveness of The Rocky Horror Show, The Divine Sister, Irma Vep or any of a dozen better plays about contemporary sexuality. To put it another way: This may be good politics, but it’s only so-so theater.

What we discover when the play starts if that we’re at the 1956 Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein Alumni Quiche Breakfast, and that we’re about to learn the winner of this year’s quiche contest. Leading the ceremony are Vern (Karla Hartley), a self-confident take-charge type; Ginny (Emily Belvo), strait-laced and easily embarrassed; Lulie (Kari Goetz), super-assertive but hiding a secret; Dale (Roxxi Jaxx), intense and athletically gifted; and Wren (Jaime Giangrande-Holcom), who more than anyone wants not to be closeted. These five talk to the audience as if we’re also members of the Society, and deliver several withering (and usually funny) critiques of a former ringleader who’s now in the front row. The women also recall the Society’s founder, who in a frightening predicament was saved by the discovery of several chickens and their eggs (eggs are a metaphor for femininity throughout the show). The prize quiche is announced, the other contenders are about to brought into the building and then...

"5 Lesbians is really about empowerment and embracing one’s essence."

Something happens. I won’t say what, but it’s the only stunning plot turn in the whole 85 minutes, and it transforms everything for the five women. Now what once had been a fairly ordinary meeting of the Society becomes a life-altering affair which may mean that the females, those on stage and those in the audience, can cease addressing each other as “widows” and admit their actual sexual preference. One further revelation changes things further, but nothing after that first big plot twist distracts us from the comedy’s most obvious objective, the moment when the women call out to the rafters, “I’m a lesbian!” Clearly, that’s what the whole play’s been about since its first moment, and a dreadful occurrence in the last minutes just seems superfluous, and hardly climactic. There’s no real ending because the play reached its true peak when the women outed themselves. As Hartley’s program note suggests, 5 Lesbians is really about empowerment and embracing one’s essence.

It’s also occasionally about good humor, verbal and physical, and it’s always about good directing and design. John Pinckard’s staging is energetic, including such gags as one of the women on all fours, consuming quiche like a hungry dachshund, and another of the women in the audience, asking a male spectator to admit to his lesbianism. Frank Chavez’s costumes, bright and flowery '50s dresses, are so much eye candy, and so is Chavez’s wryly comic set, which includes a large photograph of Dwight Eisenhower, a bunch of smaller portraits of unforgettable quiches, and a security door from the worried age of Cold War bomb shelters. Ryan Finzelber’s fine lighting provides the occasion for an unexpected joke.

The play makes one narrative choice that may undermine its own concept: If we in the audience are supposed to be lesbians, then the women on stage are coming out in a relatively safe space. After all, it’s anxiety about the straight world that keeps some gay people closeted, and the real challenge is to speak up for one’s sexuality among those who don’t share it. Even so, 5 Lesbians is a respectable act of politics. If its comedy is hit-and-miss, still its real goal is clearly the liberation of its audience. At its best, it may accomplish just that.

 

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