5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche
nytheatre.com review by Olivia Jane Smith
August 10, 2012
Welcome, sisters, to the 1956 Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein Annual Quiche Breakfast—or in other words, to FringeNYC's production of 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, a farcical romp behind whose silliness lies some social and political observation that remains potent even in the dawning age of legalized gay marriage.
Upon arrival at the theater, we’re all greeted with familiarity and name tags (the two men seated next to me were “Mary” and “Sandra”), as if we are guests at the breakfast. The rows of chairs at The Living Theater are arrayed with nosegays, as if decorated for a wedding (part of a well executed physical production overall, led by Nathan Rohrer’s costumes).
The implication is that we’re all lesbians here, though it takes an apocalypse for the characters on stage to admit it. (If there’s no one else left in the U.S., why not come out, they reason.) The fact that the production asks a few audience members (all men) to utter aloud this simple statement—“I’m a lesbian”—speaks to the fact that for many women in many parts of our country and the world, it’s still not an easy thing to say.
Our hostesses are the leadership board of the Society. Dale (Maari Suorsa) is the pretty one with an eye for the Society’s history. Vern (Thea Lux, in my favorite performance) is the dry-humored, tough talking one. We get the sense that if women could have gotten away with being butch in the ‘50s, Vern would be the first to dispense with those full skirts. Wren (Meg Johns) turns out to be the prize-winning quiche eater of the bunch. Ginny (Caitlin Chuckta), every bit the lady, is prone to gasps and exaggerated gestures like putting her hands to her forehead when she mentions an idea struck her (while amusing, it’s also a bit distracting). Lulie (Rachel Farmer) is the domineering president, rendered with a heavy Southern accent and an exaggerated acting style that even in a farce, took me out of the show at times.
Whether or not eating quiche is actually a commonly used metaphor for certain Sapphic proclivities I’m honestly not certain (though if so, it does make a funny counterpoint to the ‘80s humor book that proclaimed that Real Men Don’t . . .). For the characters here, love of quiche seems to be born not of Francophilia but from their common worship of the egg. Lulie in particular regards eggs with a religious reverence, and their connection with the feminine is obvious, as Lulie demonstrates in one of the show’s revelations. Whatever its origins, the sexual innuendo is well played here, culminating in a very funny scene that gives the show its title.
The production, from Chicago’s The New Colony troupe, was a hit there last summer and arrives with two of the original cast members (Lux and Suorsa). Despite the laugh-out-loud moments as we build toward the calamitous denouement, Andrew Hobgood and Evan Linder’s script seemed to stall at moments, going on tangents and delving into back stories that didn’t keep the plot moving forward or add new information about the characters that felt vital to the story. (At the very least, these sections could be tightened.) And while it’s hard to come into a space at the Fringe for such a short time, one wishes director Sarah Gitenstein had found a way to avoid having all five actresses spend quite so much time standing in a semblance of a line, facing front.
If you enjoy the over-the-top humor implied by the show’s title, the show’s energetic ensemble cast and intriguing, if flawed script, make 5 Lesbians worth a look. You may never think of quiche in quite the same way again.