5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche

by John Stoltenberg

Much to my tickled surprise, last night I found myself shouting out that I am a lesbian—I along with an entire audience in Lab One at The Atlas Performing Arts Center! Really, all of us, about equally women and men, similarly giddy and shouting in unison: “I am a lesbian!” We had been urged on by five quirky characters who had just declared themselves to be lesbians as well. And how that came to happen is the delightful pleasure of this zany play.

The cast of 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche: Malinda Markland (Vern), Geocel Batista (Wren), Allie O’Donnell (Lulie), Kaitlin Kemp (Ginny), and Morgan Meadows (Dale). Photo by RJ Pavel.

Monumental Theatre Company, a young bunch begun three years ago “with a desire to promote the millennial artist’s voice,” has picked a script that is chock full of wacky, madcap comedy typical of fringe, starting with its cheeky, check-it-out title.  Named Best Overall Production in the 2012 New York Fringe Festival, 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche originated in Chicago, where Andrew Hobgood and Evan Linder, co-artistic directors of The New Colony, first concocted this ingenious crowd pleaser.

Among the clever conceits in the play is its time and place, a recently remodeled community center where, in 1956, there is to be a gathering of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein. “Welcome Sisters” reads a banner strung up in Set Designer Wes Reid’s pale yellow, artfully style-less meeting room. A security-equipped door turns out to be that of a bomb shelter—this being the era of apprehension over nuke strikes.

Five ladies arrive all atwitter, dressed in winkingly faux-50s frocks by Costume Designer Kelsey Sasportas. They’re about to reveal and eat this year’s prize-winning quiche, and they could more, um, egg-cited.

As the show unfolds, the ladies extol the glories of the egg, like an ovation for their ova, while the play flirts facetiously with the sapphic allusion in quiche-eating. As becomes apparent, the ladies’ enthusiasm bespeaks a longing not yet…egg-spressed.

But first they greet each of us in attendance as if we are their dear society sisters, come to join their meeting. To seal the deal they stick on each of us a tag with a female name. We are then addressed by that name and asked solicitously about how our family members are.

So begins the unabashed bonding that five quick-witted actors create during the show with and within their beguiled audience.  Geocel Batista as Wren, Morgan Meadows as Dale, Malinda Markland as Vern, Kaitlin Kemp as Ginny, and Allie O’Donnell as Lulie comprise a cast full of comedians, all gifted at improv, physical comedy, verbal whimsy, and general nuttiness. Batista’s ebullience is especially infectious, and Meadows does a show-stopping monologue in which she mimics her character’s father. Under the adroit direction  of  Jimmy Mavrikes, this buzzy ensemble achieves together an acting style—brazenly broad in the best sense—that is an utter enjoyment unto itself.

Morgan Meadows (Dale) as her character’s father. Background, from left: Allie O’Donnell (Lulie), Geocel Batista (Wren), Kaitlin Kemp (Ginny), Malinda Markland (Vern). Photo by RJ Pavel.

During the show an actual quiche is eaten, in a way that had the audience in stitches, and among Prop Designer Liz Long provisions was that title foodstuff.  Sound Designer Jordana Abrenica and Lighting Designer Rob Siler delivered a dramatic plot twist that I won’t mention because one shouldn’t…egg-spect it.

This whole show is really fun. Though it’s a saucy spoof of the sexual repression of the pre-women’s-movement 50s and a savvy look back at the paranoia of the Cold War, don’t come hungry for a heavy meal. Monumental Theater Company’s 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche is light as a souffle, deep as a perfect pie crust, and deliciously hilarious.

Running Time: About 75 minutes, with no intermission.

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche plays through May 22, 2017, at Monumental Theatre Company performing at performing at Atlas Performing Arts Center, The Paul Sprenger Theatre – 1333 H Street NE, in Washington, D.C. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 399-7993 ext. 2, or purchase them online.