note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Larry Stark
by Jess Martin
Directed by Renee C. Farster
Renee C. Farster, Kim Hoff, Karen "Mal" Malme
Assistant Director Kim Hoff
Set Design by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Lighting Design by Michael Clark Wonson
Costume Design by Nathalie Degenhardt
Sound Design by Matt O'Hare
Renee C. Farster, Kim Hoff, Karen Malme, Jess Martin
Assistant Stage Manager Nicole Sparks
Stage Manager Mark Sickler
Lulu......Becca A. Lewis
Kai....Karen "Mal" Malme
Wednesday 18 January, '06
As I walked to the subway stop today a vicious and uncompromising wind picked a plastic ash-can off the opposite sidewalk and spun it across the street to crash BANG! up the curb and against a wrought-iron fence --- only three paces behind me! And when I finished putting a second pint of my own blood into storage for coming knee surgery I discovered the winds were also blowing a soaking downpour. I walked through it down to the Longwood stop on the D Line, where a man in an orange vest informed me a tree had fallen, T service was cancelled, and I should take a shuttle to Kenmore Square In other words, walk back Past my starting-point and stand in the deluge for a crammed and soggy bus. Back home I hung dripping clothes over heating vents, and later ventured out to rainless but chilling streets to see --- Thank Thespis! --- a beautiful, bitingly intense new play which is the best thing QUEER SOUP has done! I urge everyone to get to the BCA Black Box before it closes on 4 February, with this caveat If you've followed Queer Soup's career from comedy-sketches to laugh-riot satire you know the polish and insight of which they're capable, but --- "Home" ain't a comedy. Its material is intensely honest, it breaks new ground, its four characters wrestle with death and God and gender-identification in startlingly human ways --- And, quite seriously, SEE THE PLAY Before Reading Further!! Whatever I say from here on Will, I assure you, Spoil the shocking revelations that should surprise its audience, just as the play did me. Go, See "Home", and read the rest of this review when you return. I guarantee it will be worth the experience if you do, and well worth the wait.
[ These are called "Spoilers" I think ]
Okay, either you've SEEN the show or won't see it. I'll proceed.
"Home" opens on the night that Lulu's (Becca A. Lewis's) beloved grandfather dies unexpectedly --- and that death is the Second of several shocking surprises in the story. The first is not that Lulu and Kai (Karen Malme), her first serious Significant Other, are still sleeping together despite the disapproval of the grandparents that raised her after the death in child-birth of her mother; no the surprise is that Lulu is a Minister at her granddad's socially conservative Christian church, where he has raised her to succeed him in the pulpit.
Kelly Fitzpatrick's fluid set is divided into three areas: Kai's room stage-right, Pappi and Nana's kitchen stage-left, and an all-purpose center section --- with Michael Clark Wonson's lights moving action from one to another, and even into the audience when Kai performs her torrid cross-dressed sex-dance number. (That's "his" job: enticing women to shove big-bill tips down "his" jeans next to an imitation penis.)
Early on, the other pair in the quartet cast --- Cheryl Singleton as Nana and Toni Amato as Pappi --- talk quietly, mostly about the young minister they raised. But, though he talks, sincerely and persuasively, with all other characters, Grandad is dead, speaking as a memory in people's minds, or a ghost, or an eloquent spokesman of humanistic yet conservative Christianity.
Oh, Pappi died of the untreated cancer he kept secret from congregation and even from Lulu. Accute Ovarian cancer.
And if you think You're surprised at that, think how his beloved daughter feels, learning all that this implies for the very first time!
"Home" began and was shaped and workshopped by four core Queer Soup founders, but written by Jess Martin. The essential dilemma is Lulu's: what can she, what Should she say to her Congregation in her first Sunday sermon over the body of the "man" whose entire life and ministry with them was founded on a lie?
Neither Martin as a playwright or Queer Soup as a company avoids head-on confrontation or serious conflict. Even Kai ("I don't Think; I Do!") insists on sticking with both Lulu and Nana, helping one with kitchen chores, the other with serious questions and support, attending the funeral without concealing gender orientation, and demanding honesty to self even from the dead man; "dead Minister", perhaps I should say.
Every one of these starkly drawn and eloquently portrayed characters faces the choice of being "Who I Really Am" with honesty and anguish. Singleton's Nana, described as a lesbian, blazes "I was his WIFE! I always knew, and Accepted what He knew He was! And I loved him..." Malme's Kai relishes the performance-rush that deceives his audience, but knows who his true love is. Amato digs back to high-school loneliness --- loneliness for his own Self --- not to justify but to explain his choices. And Lewis stands before his coffin compelled to tell his loving congregation that this paragon of virtue lived a holy lie that offends their God.
Queer Soup is not doing a "queer play" here --- they've stepped far beyond that in what I see as a brutally honest and uncompromising exploration of contemporary society's most controversial problem.
It seems a lot of my favorite theater companies are "coming of age" this year.
And so is theater here in Boston...
( a k a larry stark )