DESPERATELY SEEKING CAMP
In the past month, I’ve seen three off-off-Broadway shows about lesbians or featuring lesbian characters or actresses. But two out of three were mostly serious — and mostly disappointing.
This week I saw The Beebo Brinker Chronicles, which is nearing the end of its run at the Fourth Street Theatre in New York. The show celebrates the groundbreaking novels by Ann Bannon — and for that reason alone, it’s worth seeing. But I remain mystified by its serious tone: Why would you de-camp pulp fiction, of all things?
To their credit, Anna Foss Wilson (as tough-as-nails and off-the-rails Beebo) and Marin Ireland (as just-coming-out Laura) hold their own even when their lines fall flat. But the play would be a yawn-fest without Carolyn Baeumler (in three bit parts), who seems to have missed the memo about eschewing camp. With her Falcon Crest–esque delivery and facial expressions that recall Norma Desmond, she gets big laughs and pretty much steals the show. Learn from this, would-be screenwriters!
Beebo was at least watchable, which is more than I can say for Roller Derby, recently onstage as part of the New York Musical Theater Festival. Even out actress Lea Delaria and the lesbian leanings of some of the roller girls couldn’t keep me from bolting at intermission. I mean, it’s roller derby! Again, when your source material is inherently campy, go with it — or stop wondering why you can’t get backing.
Finally, Girl Gang, also part of NYMF, hit all the right campy notes without careening out of control.
With songs like “Ballerina With a Blade” and a surprisingly touching portrayal of the love that dare not speak its name, Girl Gang proves that lesbians and camp are not mutually exclusive. The show will be staged again in 2008 and hopes to find a home off-Broadway. I really hope it does, or I’ll have to resort to seeing Xanadu again, and there’s nothing lesbian about that — despite my enduring crush on Jackie Hoffman. (Hey, she’d be perfect as the juvenile-work-camp matron in Girl Gang!)
LESBIAN QUOTE OF THE WEEK NO. 3
“Every night I have to kiss the girl who plays Joanne and she’s a great kisser — her lips are really soft. I’m sitting on the fence over whether boys or girls are better kissers, but I still prefer men at the moment.”
— British stage actress Denise van Outen in the Oct. 17 issue of the U.K. tabloid The Sun, on what it’s like to play bisexual Maureen in the West End production of Rent