By Ruth Ross
The level of lunacy reaches astronomical heights in the little black box theater at Mondo in Summit where Alliance Rep is performing 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, but just when you think the mayhem has run amok, the comedic romp's serious underpinning raises its head to bring us back to earth with a thud. (Above L-R: Cara Heary, Gloria Lamoureaux, Leslie Gayle Williams, Kelly Maizenaski and Lauri MacMillan)
First produced at the 2010 New York Fringe Festival before going on to a respectable Off-Broadway run, this parody of sexual repression—set at the height of the Cold War when the threat of a Russian-launched missile sent schoolchildren under their desks and paranoid citizens scurrying to self-built bomb shelters—involves graphic quiche eating, snatch jokes, pantsuits jokes and ladies kissing, along with surprisingly emotional notes, a hilariously funny revelation (No spoilers!) and a surprising conclusion.
Innuendo and repressed sexual feelings are the order of the day at the annual quiche breakfast held by the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein. (The audience is given nametags and made instant members of the society.) In 1956, during the age of McCarthyism, these "widows" gather every year in the community center basement to compete for the best quiche, but as Communists and their culture threaten the women's country and lifestyle, how will they deal with the catastrophe?
Under Michael Driscoll's masterful direction, the 75-minute play barrels along steadily, with little time for the audience to question the dramatic situation's verisimilitude. Well before the end of the show, the play's main gag line is revealed—these "widows" are really lesbians who dare not say the name aloud—reminding us how far we have come regarding gender politics.
What makes all this zaniness work is the ensemble of five talented actresses who appear to be having the time of their lives as they spout the most outlandish dialogue—in a very serious manner. Gloria Lamoureux is chirpy and effervescent as Wren, the event chairwoman; Lauri MacMillan's Vern (below) is an officious, imperious stereotypical dyke; Kelly Maizenaski is hilarious as the attention-hogging Brit Ginny; Cara Heary (right, with photo of the society’s founder), the pretty youngster Dale, is given to taking pictures (with a box camera) and posing ad nauseum; and Leslie Gayle Williams' Lulie, the society's president, attempts vainly (and valiantly) to keep things under control.
Performed on a serviceable set, complete with a security door, lit by Ed Pearson and sound by Brad Howell, 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche offers social and political observations that remain powerful and relevant—even in this age of legalized gay marriage. Playwrights Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood have provided a mix of dementia and absurdist comedy that will make you laugh as well as think. And once again, Alliance Rep has taken an off-beat play and given it a superb production—in this case, most appropriately, in a little black box theater in Mondo's basement in Summit!
5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche will be performed at Mondo (lower level), 426 Springfield Ave., Summit, through November 21. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM; Sunday, November 15, at 7 PM. For information and tickets, call 908.472.1502 or visit www.alliancerep.org online.
Photos by Howard Fischer.