The newest production from the Monumental Theatre Company is made quite clearly by theatre lovers, for theatre lovers. It’s also for lesbians. And quiche lovers.
Ginny, Dale, Vern, Wren, and Lulie, members of The Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein, have gathered all of us to their local community center for the 1956 edition of the Annual Quiche Breakfast. Just after the start, the Sisters come out to greet every individual member of the audience and hand out name tag. In that moment, we are all inducted into this oddball women-and-egg-centric club to share their love of quiche.
1956 was one of the peak years for fear of both communism and nuclear war. The play, written by Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood, deals with this head-on in set design and costuming. The set sits before the audience at floor level, allowing for maximum movement within the black box space, and thus makes every member of the audience a potential participant. The doors to the outside serve as “interior” doors for the space that lead to the restroom, and two other doors sit near center stage along a wall with welcome banners. One door has a silver wheel on it, like what might be seen on a submarine, that leads to the world outside. The other door leads to the kitchen.
The women, who have established that we all are widows, begin their celebrations by preparing the club with their motto: “No men! No Meat! All Manners.” This led me to wonder if “widows” is some sort of antiquated slang for lesbian, which led me down a Wikipedia sinkhole in which I learned that “the game of flats” is a slang term from the 18th century. You’re welcome for that information.
The characters try to live up to the 50s-housewife ideal, but after what may or may not be an attack, the women feel suddenly free from societal expectation. The leader of the cabinet is Lulie, a headstrong quiche obsessive who holds a grudge against another member of the Sisterhood. Dale is an avid photographer, Vern is chair of the building and grounds, Wren heads the events, and my dear anxious Ginny is the secretary. The five leads have serious comedic chops, and could surely convert a shy audience with their direct engagement, side conversations, and physicality. The best moments of the play were when the women were given the most physical free reign—leaping, kissing, staring, rolling, slo-motioning—to throw themselves across the space as they needed. The aisles functioned as laid out, with actors frequently getting right in the faces (or laps) of the audience. The name tags were a clever trick to introduce this level of engagement, and set expectations appropriately for the show to come.
If you’re not a fan of participatory or interactive theatre, this is not the show for you, but as an “ex” theatre kid (you can never truly leave that behind), I find it utterly delightful. I mean, I’m not a quiche fanatic nor am I a lesbian, but for one night I was in a room of people who were ready to be both. That palpable excitement feeds the actor’s energy, and in turn, all of us.
If you want to kick off your summer with a couple big bangs, a whole lot of quiche and a good heart, this is your show.
5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche runs at Atlas Theatre through May 22.