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Chicago by John Olson

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche
The New Colony

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche
Beth Stelling, Thea Lux, Mary Hollis Inboden, Megan Johns and Maari Suorsa
It's 1956 and somewhere in middle America a women's group called the "Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein" is celebrating their annual quiche breakfast. Code abounds in this society and the play—code so hidden even the five society members onstage don't all realize they are members of a latently lesbian group in the repressed '50s. They not only celebrate quiche, but they revere eggs and abhor sausages—especially when mixed with eggs. (One society member committed the ultimate faux pas a year earlier by bringing a sausage quiche to the celebration). Conformity is not the only characteristic of the fifties that's skewered in this 90-minute comedy—the red scare and nuclear paranoia of the decade are targets as well. When the five repressed lesbians are confined to a fallout shelter following a nuclear attack, the emotions and suppressed desires explode with greater force than the H-bomb.

If it sounds like sketch comedy, that's because that's what is it—an expansion of a sketch that won awards for The New Colony in last year's Sketchbook X festival. It follows the conventions of sketch comedy more than those of stage comedies, but the fun and the pace, as directed by Sarah Gitenstein, never flag. The script by Andrew Hobgood and Evan Linder is complex and funny enough to sustain interest and laughs for the full ninety minutes, with enough targets of satire to easily fill the time. They begin by establishing their five characters and lampooning stereotypes and strictures of 1950s women, lesbian or not, and the evening's fun owes as much to the uninhibited and skillfully comic performances as to the writing.

Leader of the group is Lulie Stanwyck, who rules the roost with an iron fist (surely inspired by Barbara Stanwyck's matriarch on TV's "The Big Valley"). Mary Hollis Inboden perfectly captures all the parts of this woman: sweetness and femininity, but with a steely determination to keep her society and its traditions intact. Inboden establishes herself as an extraordinarily talented comedienne with the performance, starting with a familiar stereotype and adding detail and nuance to make it a fully realized character that is all her own.

Not that the remainder of the cast is shabby either. Beth Stelling is Veronica "Vern" Schultz, the unabashed butch of the group, with an earthy prairie state quality. She is balanced by the feminine and accommodating Wren Robin (sweetly played by Megan Johns). Thea Lux is Ginny Cadbury, the insecure and nervous one; and Maari Suorsa is Dale Prist, the youngest woman of the group. Remaining members of the society are played by the audience—all of whom are given feminine name tags and at times invited to join in the action. Fortunately, we weren't asked to crouch and put our heads between our legs as in the 1950s air raid drills.

Nathan R. Rohrer has dressed the women in a palette of pretty pastels suggestive of the fifties and Nick Sieben has created a set that nicely combines church basement and fallout shelter. 5 Lesbians is a sort of Fail Safe as if written by Lillian Hellman, but much more fun. "Saturday Night Live" should be able to sustain their 10-minute sketches as well as The New Colony does with this 90-minute piece.

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche will play at the Dank Haus, 4740 N. Western Ave., Chicago, through July 30, 2011. Tickets may be purchased at 773-413-0862 or www.thenewcolony.org.


Photo: Anne Petersen

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-- John Olson



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