Chicago Theatre Review
No Men, No Meat, All Manners
5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche
It’s been said that real men eat quiche, and while that may be true it would definitely be frowned upon at the annual breakfast meeting and quiche competition of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein. It’s 1956 and men are banned from this secret society of self-described “widows” that celebrates the egg as the closest thing to Jesus Christ. Meat is also banned from the ingredients possible in one’s quiche entry, and everything is very proper and high-mannered…until “it” happens.
This group of five funny, flamboyant, impeccably dressed ladies break the fourth wall and fling their comic portrayals beyond Joe Schermoly’s tastefully festooned church basement setting and out into the audience. Upon entering the theatre, audiences (men and women alike) are given 1950’s female name tags to wear, so that each and every playgoer is instantly transformed into a club member. The cast frequently speaks directly to their congregation hilariously engaging them in the evening’s proceedings. One audience member is identified as a former official stripped of her rank for burying a sausage (Quel frommage!) in her quiche entry last year.
Expanded from a ten-minute comedy sketch, this hour-long play has become a side-splitting, nostalgic trip to a more innocent time when “Father Knows Best” actress Jane Wyatt was a woman’s role model and the love that dared not to speak its name had to be kept in the closet. In fact, it’s only after a catastrophic event suddenly befalls this unnamed small town, and everyone (including the audience) is looking at four years being trapped together in what’s now become a fallout shelter, that true confessions fumble forward. Up to this point the hysterical double entendres and euphemisms are as plentiful as the delicious-looking quiches displayed in the church foyer. But by the end of this play the entire audience is joining the cast proudly proclaiming, “I am a lesbian!”
Sarah Gitenstein has guided her superbly gifted cast through an evening of over-the-top, picture-perfect posturing, posing and parlance. There’s nothing subtle about this production and even the few quiet, dramatic moments eventually erupt into slapstick. Megan Johns is a beautiful, effervescent Wren. Resembling Jean Smart from TV’s “Designing Women,” she’s the perfect, welcoming hostess, clothed in a buttery yellow crinoline dress that’s as proper and pressed as her elegantly styled coif and genteel manners. Caitlin Chuckta is brilliant as Ginny, the tiny straight-laced British bundle of nerves and the undeserved brunt of several jokes. However, the actress wins everyone’s approval (and uncontrollable laughter), when she demonstrates how to properly devour a winning quiche with unbridled animal ferocity.
Rachel Farmer makes an entrance in a persimmon ensemble complete with pumps and pearls and takes over the proceedings as Lulie, the organization’s president. A fine mixture of dour looks and giant, gracious smiles, Ms. Farmer is the undisputed ruler of the roost. For this comical character, the egg is everything, as is keeping decorum. Kate Carson-Groner’s Dale is smartly put together and, with her Kodak Brownie camera ever at her fingertips, the official photographer for the day’s events. Ms. Groner is blessed with the play’s most dramatic moments, following her gleefully delivered 11th hour confessional that unexpectedly ties together everyone’s lives. Thea Lux, the only career woman of the group, plays Vern as a tough, no-nonsense lady. With her deadpan delivery, Ms. Lux’s humor is often subtle and more understated than the other characters and her barbed asides provoke many a laugh.
The return to Chicago of Andrew Hobgood and Evan Linder’s outrageous recipe for comedy is a welcome addition to this theatre season. The play’s just the right length; any longer and this zany farce would be too hard-boiled. It’s not so much its slim, scatterbrained plot that’s so delectable, but rather the playwrights’ well-written characters, amplified and embellished by the talents of a fine director and these five terrific actresses. Costumed with finesse and style by Nathan Rohrer, these five ladies are a bunch of really good eggs, even if they are slightly cracked.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented May 1-June 8, by the Chicago Commercial Collective in a remounting of The New Colony’s production at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St., Chicago.
Tickets are available by calling 773-404-7336 or by going to www.5lesbianseatingaquiche.com.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.