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Tiny Engine Sputters with “5 Lesbians”

The cast of "5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche" includes (clockwise from left) Liz Webb, Erica Heilmann, Laurel Ullman, Noelle Barnard Azarelo, and Pimpila Violette (photo by Sylvia Freeman)

“5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche” stars (clockwise from left) Liz Webb, Erica Heilmann, Laurel Ullman, Noelle Barnard Azarelo, and Pimpila Violette (photo by Sylvia Freeman)

Tiny Engine Theatre Company, one of the many new theater companies popping up in the Triangle in recent time, is presenting its third offering to audiences: Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood’s farcical romp and 2012 New York International Fringe Festival winner, 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, which will play from July 30th through Aug. 2nd at Common Ground Theatre in Durham, with an encore presentation on Aug. 19th at The Carolina Theatre of Durham, presented as part of that theater’s Aug. 14-22 North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

When the curtain rises, the year is 1956; and members of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein are preparing for their annual quiche breakfast, to which we have all been invited. Upon entering the theatre, a big-smiled Mrs.-Cleaver-esque Noelle Barnard Azarelo welcomes you and assigns you a new name. I was Patricia. Being a society of sisters, we were all women.

In the just-over-an-hour abbreviated timeline of the script, our five sisters indulge in the first bite of the winning quiche, become locked in their fallout-shelter meeting room after a nuclear explosion outside, and let confessions fly. And not everyone makes it out alive. Due to so much happening in such little time, moments can feel rushed, revelations come at a dizzying pace, and — unless it is firmly rooted in a sense of reality — the whole thing feels like it’s rocketing out of grip of both the ladies on stage and us in the seats.

While many seem to have praised this production for its laugh-out-loud hysteria, I was left feeling like maybe I was missing something. None of it made any real sense to me. I couldn’t understand the Why? of it. The lesbian angle of the show seemed more of a way to create a title that would attract attention. 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche does have more of a ring than 5 Women or 5 Widows (as they refer to themselves). It just felt more of a crutch by the (male) playwrights, employed to garner some laughs; but even by show’s end, after all the comings-outs were done, loves professed, and we are encouraged to announce our own lesbianism in a cacophonous yell, it still just felt hollow. I don’t necessarily blame this on the actresses; I just think the script is thin — and that’s being generous.

To be sure, the ladies on stage are doing their best with that they’re given. Tiny Engine co-founder Laurel Ullman commands the stage with wide eyes and a staunch stance as president of the Society, Lulie. Liz Webb mines as much comedy as she can from Vern. But, perhaps, it was director Paul Sapp’s intention to keep the characters as bubbly and sweet as possible, playing in to that 1950s woman stereotype from television; the biggest problem with all that is that it’s only sustainable for about 10 minutes, and then it becomes old news.

I don’t feel like we ever caught the true levels of these women. Despite weak script, these women do share some tough life experiences. It would have been nice to see more grounded reality than elevated saccharine.

All that aside, being a new start-up theatre, Tiny Engine Theatre Companydeserves community support, even while they find their legs.

SECOND OPINION: July 29th Durham, NC Indy Weekreview by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 3.5 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/a-bawdy-supremely-silly-show-from-tiny-engine/Content?oid=4610163 and July 22nd mini-preview by Byron Woods: here; July 24th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Jackson Cooper: http://www.cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=7534; July 24th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article28510864.html; and July 15th Raleigh, NC ArtsNow preview by Rachel Berry: http://artsnownc.com/2015/07/15/preview-tiny-engine-5-lesbians-eating-a-quiche/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the July 25th Triangle Review review by Pamela Vesper and Kurt Benrud, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2015/07/tiny-engine-theatre-companys-rendition-of-5-lesbians-eating-a-quiche-is-absurdly-delightful/.)

Tiny Engine Theatre Company presents 5 LESBIANS EATING A QUICHE at 8 p.m. July 30-Aug. 1, and 2 p.m. Aug 2 at Common Ground Theatre, 4815B Hillsborough Rd., Durham, North Carolina 27705; plus an encore presentation, presented as part of the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 19 at The Carolina Theatre of Durham, in Fletcher Hall at The Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan, St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.

TICKETS:

Common Ground Theatre Shows: $17.55 ($13.41 students with ID, seniors 65+, and active-duty military personnel) (Note: Both ticket prices include fees).

The Carolina Theatre Show: $15.

BOX OFFICE:

Common Ground Theatre Shows: 919-578-1654, tinyenginetheatre@gmail.com, or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1659071.

The Carolina Theatre Show: 919-560-3030 or https://oss.ticketmaster.com/.

SHOW:

Common Ground Theatre Shows: http://www.tinyenginetheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/events/407481442786060/, and http://cgtheatre.com/events.

The Carolina Theatre Show: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/events/5-lesbians-eating-quiche.

PRESENTER: http://www.tinyenginetheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/tinyenginetheatre, and https://twitter.com/tinyengine1.

VENUES:

Common Ground Theatre: http://www.cgtheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/cgtheatre, and https://twitter.com/CGTheatre919 (directions/parking: http://www.cgtheatre.com/directions.

The Carolina Theatre of Durham: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaTheatreDurham, and https://twitter.com/CarolinaDurham (directions/parking: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/directions).

OTHER LINKS:

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche (2011 comedy): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/9940/5-lesbians-eating-a-quiche (Samuel French), http://thenewcolony.org/view/5_lesbians_eating_a_quiche ((The New Colony), and http://evanlinder.com/project/5-lesbians-eating-a-quiche/ (Evan Linder).

Evan Linder (playwright): http://evanlinder.com/ (official website), http://thenewcolony.org/people/evan_linder (The New Colony bio), http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsL/linder-evan.html (Doollee.com: The Playwrights Database).

Andrew Hobgood (playwright): http://thenewcolony.org/people/andrew_hobgood (The New Colony bio) and http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsH/hobgood-andrew.html (Doollee.com: The Playwrights Database).

Paul Sapp (Durham, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/paul.sapp.71 (Facebook page).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Jesse R. Gephart is a Raleigh, NC-based actor, director, and reviewer. A Gainesville, FL native, he earned a degree in Theatre Performance in 2005 from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. On Feb. 20-22 and Feb. 27-March 1, 2015, he directed and starred in Mortall Coile Theatre Company’s presentation of British playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell’s first play, The Pride (2008), which won the 2009 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre. Then, on May 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, and 21-14, he directed Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch in RLT‘s Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre. To read more of Jesse Gephart’s reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/jesse-r-gephart/.)

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews