The title, 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche should instantly let you know whether you're a part of the target audience or not. If that title instantly makes you go, "Okay, that sounds like my cup of tea," then read no more and just go to the play. If it makes you think, "Ehhh, that sounds inappropriate and downright offensive," then skip it and maybe also calm down a little. The show has a lot more going for it than a delightful title and open minds will most certainly find something to enjoy.
Decidedly, 5 Lesbians is fringe theatre, but in a sophisticated way rather than a shocking one. The term fringe theatre is used for theatrical pieces providing and experience more experimental in terms of tone, style and subject matter, more so than a typical night out at a play. There are fringe festivals all over the world, celebrating theater that makes the audience experience the world just a bit differently.
This show has lofty goals set firmly inside a thick wall of parody, satire and audience participation. The comedy 5 Lesbians tells the story of the annual quiche breakfast of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein. The show is set in 1956, smack dab in the center of middle-America during the Red Scare, with a meeting of all "widows" who have a deep and abiding love of all things quiche.
Our five lead characters are all initially broadly drawn: Wren Robin (a very funny Catherine Hahne) is the princess, Vern Schultz (a boisterously intense Melinda Jahn) is the tomboy, Ginny Cadbury (a perfect Stephanie Slade) is the wallflower, Lulie Stanwyck (a deranged and hilarious Nancy Scher) is the matron and Dale Prist (a subtle and excellent Shannyn Christensen) is the one with a dark past.
However, the five lesbians are not the only attendees of the breakfast, as every audience member is given a name tag and an honorary membership into the society. Regardless of gender, sexual preference or anything at all, everyone in the audience, for that one night, is an honorary lesbian.
The opening minutes are filled with jokes that would easily fill an episode of Saturday Night Live, but the show gains depth and darkness as it progresses. With all of the blood, horniness, eggs, lady kissing and clothes shedding one could expect from a show with this title, it will appeal to not only fans of wilder fare like Evil Dead: The Musical, but also more dramatic work like August: Osage County as well.
Underneath all of the broad humor and wacky characterization, there is a wonderfully upbeat story being told about never letting society tell you what is normal, no matter the time period. Director Scott Schultz found an excellent way to walk that fine line between camp and thematic weight. Schultz says, "It touches on the roles women have played historically and the oppression they have faced as a result of gender roles." He adds, "The Red Scare was well known but no one knows about the Pink Scare that prosecuted innocent people simply because of their sexuality."
5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche is very well-acted by the entire cast and directed with just the right touch of camp and drama. The piece leaves you with a smile on your face and a message in your heart. That might be nothing short of a minor miracle for a play about the end of the world and lesbianism in the 1950s.
5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche
Friday, Jan. 15, to Sunday, Jan. 24
7:30 pm and 3 pm
2nd Street Theater, 220 NE Lafayette Ave.