5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche is one Soggy and Overcooked Meal
Photo by Ruth S McCleskey
The set up:
I suppose there is some quip to be made about the fact that two men, Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood, are the playwrights behind 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche. After all, aren't men supposed to have some machismo aversion to the oft maligned egg pie? But both in the duo's script and in Boiling Point Players confounding production, the joke it seems is on us. And it's nothing particularly to laugh at.
In fairness, we should see it coming right from the start. Quiche started out as a ten-minute sketch and then went on to some acclaim as a one hour-ish show at the New York International Fringe Festival and Soho Playhouse. Why then are we told upon entering the theatre that the evening would have an intermission and two acts?
Programme inspection identifies Act 2 not as a continuation of the Lesbian Quiche narrative, but rather as "guest performances by local improv troupes and some cabaret-style songs."
What's next, a shadow puppet contest?
Blessedly spared any puppet play, I was there to review a show, so let's start with the part of the production that actually had a script.
The date is 1956, and we are present at the morning meeting of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein. Not only are we present at the gathering, but we are Society members too we're told. In an audience interaction effort that never really is used to any great effect, we're given random female name tags to wear upon entering the theater. The reason we're all together in this newly renovated community center (a painfully sparse set comprised of one cloth covered table and a door to the space) is for the Society's annual breakfast where a prize-winning quiche will be declared in a reverent ceremony.
The reverence stems from the Society's founder, a pioneering woman who cleared land, created a community and staved off certain starvation by happening upon chickens whose eggs she nourished herself on. Why this egg worship never manifested into holy love for scrambled or poached versions isn't explained. Quiche is what these ladies worship and so quiche is what we get.
The other passion these women share is their dislike of men as evidenced by the Society's motto, "No meat, no men, all manners." The women all self-identify as "widows" to save face, but Linder and Hobgood use every cliché and innuendo they can think of to make sure we know that these ladies are lesbians.
There's Vern, short for Veronica (Autumn Clack) a masculine, pant-wearing bossy gal who's in lust with Ginny (Adriana Dominguez) a ditzy thing who doesn't mind having quiche crumbs licked off her face by the fairer sex. Wren (Melanie Martin) an overly cheery gal is "close friends" with the beauty of the group, Dale (Inge Kellerman). Finally there is the President of the organization, Lulie (Sammi Sicinski) who supresses any libidinous urges she may have by ruling the Society with an iron egg cup. The truth about the women's sexuality all comes pouring out in confessional form when an atomic explosion forces them into indefinite lockdown at the community center.
Sure, it's a quirky story, but quirk without successful comedy or strong comedic performances in this case falls as flat as a failed soufflé (another egg dish not lauded by the women). Linder and Hobgood certainly were attempting to tongue in cheek comment on the difficulties and repressions lesbians felt in the American mid '50s. Nothing wrong with a good old fashioned campy examination of a societal minority to make us laugh and hopefully think a little. Instead the writing duo spends so much time and energy on the egg stuff (yes we get that it's metaphoric) that they forget to include compelling characters or clever dialogue. This is an egg shell of a show where the audience is asked to wonder at the unusual makeup of the structure without paying attention to the fact that the yolk is more than a little off.
Under Ruth S McCleskey's direction, what substance the show might have is undercooked. Other than a spate of derisive jabs at a fellow wearing the name Marjorie in the audience (apparently her quiche last year was not up to par) and a pitiful few other audience acknowledgements, we are left sitting name tagged and ignored. Why go through the bother of tagging us at all if we aren't made to feel part of the action?
More problematic was McCleskey's handling of the completely out of place emotionally serious scene where Dale reveals why she hasn't spoken to her father since she was 3 years old. Incongruously disturbing amongst all the supposed comedy of the script, this is a scene that desperately needed more quirk to make it fit. Instead McCleskey played it straight and left us nauseous from the sea saw effect in and out of melodrama.
Even ground however was the name of the game for the cast who uniformly provided underwhelming performances all around. Arm waving and grand gestures stand in for comedic talent as the actors attempt to whisk their lines into a froth. Accent also proved an issue, in this case the presence of one. Inge Kellerman's Dale may be a USA-born gal, but try as she might, her strong accent (Australian? South African?) kept bleeding through in unfortunate ways. The result sounded like an American doing an pitiful Olivia Newton John/Charlize Theron accent and it utterly distracted from what might have otherwise been the strongest performance of the bunch.
However in comparison to what follows post intermission, let's just say it was easy to quickly become nostalgic for unfunny quiche jokes. In what can only be described as a slipshod, cobbled together production decision, the final 50 minutes is a jumble of mildly funny, non sequitur songs (sung by a mediocre voiced Melanie Martin) and two interminable rounds of amateurish improv performance by a troupe called Baby Knuckle.
Why? What possibly could have been Boiling Point Player's motivation for making us sit through this? It didn't complement or add anything to the already problematic play. It certainly wasn't enjoyable on its own merits. All I could come up with is that perhaps there was a feeling of wow, we're on stage and we don't get to do this in front of people very often so let's keep going and do something else. Wheeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Talk about having egg on your face.
5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche continues through May 9 at Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring Street. Purchase tickets online at boilingpointplayers.com $15
Get the Theater Newsletter
Get a rundown of upcoming theater events and ticket deals in Houston.