Driving home from seeing Boulderbased Square Product Theatre’s latest, 5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche, I was reminded of the Oscar Paradox. The Oscar Paradox, according to me, is the phenomenon that Oscar winning movies — movies that, by definition, have earned the highest honor offered by their industry — generally lack when it comes to basic entertainment value. They may tell important stories (12 Years a Slave), contain exceptional performances (Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club) or feature mind-blowing special effects (Gravity), but when you ask yourself, “Am I not entertained?” the honest answer usually comes back, “Meh.”
So, instead of handing over another $10-$20 of your hard-earned money to the Hollywood machine and walking away marginally entertained at best, why not buy a ticket for 5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche and guarantee yourself a rollicking evening full of laughter, unrepentant goofiness and an ample helping of early-21st-Century entertainment?
It’s 1956, and the women of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein are holding their annual quiche contest. These women love quiche like sailors love to swear. To them, quiche transcends mere foodstuffery. Its primary ingredient, the egg, represents the very primordial essence of life. The creation, sharing, judging and consuming of the quiches whips the members of the SBASSGS into a frenzy almost religious in its intensity and reverence.
So sisterly is the vibe of this group of widows that the only rules they have for their annual quicheanalia are 1) no men and 2) no meat in a quiche. It doesn’t take a women’s studies major to start to read between the lines. The presence of men is so abhorrent that even meat is verboten. The longing looks lingering on the faces of this all-female group are by no means limited to appreciation of the various quiches on display. And some of these “widows” have never even been married.
Certainly, something seems a little queer here, and if the title of the play didn’t give it away, something is. More accurately, everyone is. That’s right, the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein is, in actuality, a secret lesbian club! Though even a few of its members seem surprised by this, once the chips are down, everyone comes quickly out of the closet.
After a wonderfully unexpected plot twist, Wren Robin (Lindsey Pierce), chairwoman of the quiche-off, is the first proudly to proclaim, “I am a lesbian!” Seconding the notion enthusiastically is the pseudo-sergeant-atarms of the group, Vern Schultz (Laurie Lynch). Wren and Vern are soon joined in their Sapphic confessional by the prissy Dale Prist (Emily K. Harrison) and, eventually, by bouncy Brit Ginny Cadbury ( Jessica Robblee). The president of the SBASSGS, Lulie Stanwyck (Michelle Moore), never goes on record about her sexual preferences, but it’s safe to say that she counts herself part of Team Lesbos.
5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche skirts absurdity as it brings home the laughs. Each character specializes in a different genre of humor, and each actress plays to her character’s idiosyncratic strengths. In particular, Pierce’s Wren begins as the epitome of 1950’s female domesticity before transforming subtly but effectively into a fully self-actualized lesbian. Lynch’s Vern, with her Girl Scout uniform and butch demeanor, presents as lesbian from moment one, but once the cat is out of the sexual orientation bag she earns the most enthusiastic reactions from the appreciative crowd.
Despite an obvious lack of funding and a very DIY aesthetic, 5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche goes for the brass ring and snatches it. Square Product Theatre has a habit of performing in varied spaces and geographies, and in accordance with that tradition they are producing this show in a converted church basement in Denver. The space fits the play, and the end result is a shimmering example of doing more with less.