It comes as little surprise to learn that 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche – a 2012 New York International Fringe Festival hit written by Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood – started out as a 10-minute play. Essentially it remains just that: 10 minutes of actual drama, plumped with an additional hour of “audience interaction” – if that’s what you’d call haranguing onlookers to clap and holler and relate. (“I am a lesbian!” – as if the very word were a source of titillation.)
To summarize the premise (it could scarcely be called a plot), it’s 1956, somewhere in the Midwest, and the members of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein – an organization presumed to include the present audience – have convened to conduct their annual quiche breakfast.
Given the galumphing tipoff embedded in the name of this affinity group for Eisenhower-era “widows,” it won’t take you long to catch on to the fact that “quiche” is code word for another word beginning with a hard "c." Any doubts flee with the participants’ insistence that putting any kind of meat – much less sausage – in a quiche would be an abomination.
Get the joke? It’ll be pounded home so relentlessly, you may have flashbacks to being trapped on a school bus with a pack of compulsive dirty-jokers.
The stage comes to life briefly when the newbie of the group, secretary Ginny Cadbury (Caitlin Chuckta), dives headfirst into the plat du jour, causing the others to stand back in awe of her “technique.” And a germ of an actual story emerges when the town historian Dale Prist (Maari Suorsa) reveals the origin of her lifelong determination never to speak to men.
Throw in a low-budget bloodbath finale (a de rigueur fillip for Fringe), and voila! Ten minutes’ total drama, dragged down by dime-store home-ec costuming – consider all the fabulous vintage available! – and an evident order from director Sarah Gitenstein to involve the audience at all costs. Actorly desperation is never engaging. Thea Lux, the one performer who keeps her cool, bemused distance (as Ms. Fixit, “Vern” Schultz), alone suggests an interesting story behind all the pumped-up hullabaloo.