—Originally published March 7, 2016—
Meet the Hanslick Girls: Gwen, Eleanor and Dania. Created by writer Zach Barr, they are a trio of Northwestern students who always go to see plays together. They may not have the same opinions, but their conversations tend to make for an entertaining read. Recently, the Girls saw “5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche,” Lipstick Theatre’s first play as a StuCo board member. Let’s hear what they had to say on their way back from the theater…
“That. Was. Marvelous.”
Eleanor remained sitting in her chair for a moment after the applause subsided, though Gwen and Dania quickly rose and walked elsewhere in Shanley: Gwen, to the back of the space, where she was fervently greeting and congratulating her friends working on the show; Dania, to the stage itself, where a couple of fresh, untouched quiches sat on a table, being pecked at by hungry audience members.
Eleanor flipped through her program. She looked again at the front cover, where the faces of the five women stared straight back at her, with eyes ranging from judgemental to ecstatic. She looked again at the small print under the production’s twirly logo, naming the play’s two writers: Andrew Hopgood and Evan Linder. Her eye drifted down the program to the director: Hale McSharry. After a moment, she flipped the program open to the production team credits and began counting names.
Minutes later, the three girls were walking together away from Shanley Pavilion. Dania was gesticulating wildly as she talked.
“And then, when she has to go out at the end, and that moment where they have their hands on the door window together, like that scene in Star Trek, and then…”
Dania paused to laugh, letting Gwen finish the thought.
“When the blood explodes all over the window?”
“YES!” Dania shouted. “It’s just so unexpected! The show is so pastel-y and simple, and then suddenly there’s this random gore! It’s hilarious!”
“I know,” Gwen responded. “Damn, this one is good. I didn’t know the script beforehand, but it’s like…really good.”
“I know, right?”
“The egg imagery and symbolism, and the stance against meat and everything – it’s all a little obvious, but it’s clearly supposed to be.”
“Well, of course it is,” Eleanor said. “It’s a satire, right?”
“It’s technically a farce, I think,” Gwen said. “Unless it’s a satire of, maybe, the 1950s in general or something like that. You could probably make the claim that it’s absurdist.”
“It’s totally absurd,” Dania agreed. “I had trouble keeping up with it, it was moving by so fast. Did they ever explain why that one character was English?”
“What, the short one?” Eleanor asked. “I think she was just British. There wasn’t really a reason given for it.”
“Yeah, that’s Kali Skatchke, and she killed it. And I called it, I totally called it last year during “Language Archive.” I said she would be a good comedic actress, and she totally is.”
Dania laughed again. “Everyone in the show is a fantastic comedienne. Even the super reserved people, like that president girl in purple. She was hilarious.”
“Lulie? Abigail Doermann?”
“Yeah, her. I can’t remember any names.”
“I remember Dayle Prist,” said Eleanor. “But only because I kept thinking that ‘Prist’ wasn’t a real last name. I don’t know why.”
“Oh,” Gwen said, “That was Carrie Caffrey. She stole the entire show. Just vibrant to watch.”
“Dude,” Dania responded. “Everyone stole the entire show. It was fantastic!”
“True,” Gwen conceded.
Dania continued. “The hat one was like super crazy and over the top, and that one in the tighter red dress was really good at being kind of slinky and distant…”
“Vern?” Eleanor asked. “Yeah, she did feel a little bit different than the others.”
“She’s a different kind of 1950s housewife,” Gwen explained. “Not all of them are the same Stepford Wives clone. And Ele Hagermoser did a great job with her. If the bomb hadn’t dropped, it probably would have been a fight between her and Ginny.”
“I don’t know. The show would find a conflict. Maybe a fight for Lulie’s love, they’re still lesbians.”
“That could work,” Dania responded. “I mean, I was fully shipping Hat One and Camera Lady long before they kissed at the end.”
“Yeah, that’s Carrie, and Hat One is Maddy Kelly,” Gwen explained. “Who also did a fantastic job. That was a little more obvious foreshadowing that they were interested in each other.”
“Dang, there are a lot of names ending with -ee here,” Eleanor observed. “Mad-ee Kell-ee, Carr-ee Caffr-ee, Kal-ee Skatchk-ee…”
“Hagermoser,” Dania said flatly.
“Okay, they don’t all work.”
“Seriously, though,” Gwen said. “It’s probably one of the best casts I’ve seen on campus in a while, all things considered. They just work so well off of each other. Hale and Rachel did a great job casting them all.”
Dania looked up. “Who are they?”
“Director and producer, respectively.”
Eleanor looked at the program cover again.
“Hale?” asked Dania. “Is that her full name? Is it like Haley or something?”
“No, it’s just Hale. He’s a junior, he hasn’t directed in StuCo before.”
“Wait,” Dania stopped. “A guy directed this?”
“Yeah, I noticed that,” Eleanor said. She pointed at the program. “Written by two dudes as well.”
Dania took the program in disbelief. “What?”
“That’s not, though…” Gwen said. “That’s not a big problem, though. It’s true, but it’s not a bad thing for the show.”
“It’s weird,” Eleanor said.
“Maybe a little bit,” Gwen agreed.
“Well, they did a darn good job,” Dania said, handing the program back.
“If anything,” Gwen continued, “I think it’s impressive they did as good a job as they did getting into that mentality of what it was to be a housewife in the 1950s. With nothing to do but be domestic and worry about quiche.”
“Well, that mentality was basically built by men for women anyway,” Eleanor said, her eyes piercing.
“Right.” Dania said. “It’s when they string that older mentality through the lens of modern feminism and satire that it becomes really funny.”
“Yeah,” Eleanor agreed. “It’s still a really funny, good show. But that’s so strange to me to think about.”
There was a slight lull in the conversation.
“It’s a pretty simple production, truth be told,” Gwen said. “One setting, no major scenic alterations, just two moments where they actually have to do something big technically…”
“Wait, which ones?” Dania asked. “The atomic bomb going off, and what’s the second one?”
“Carrie Caffrey exploding.”
“They do have to bake a new quiche every night,” Eleanor added.
“Yes,” Gwen said. “And more, if they’re offering them to the audience after each show.”
“I had part of it,” Dania said. “It’s a little cold, but I’m glad they had it.”
“Well, it’s sitting there all show, it’s not fresh,” Eleanor said.
“True,” Dania said. Then, she laughed again. “At least I got to eat mine with a fork.”
“Oh, yeah,” Eleanor said, a smile appearing on her face. “Poor British girl.”
Gwen Instinctively wiped her mouth. “Yeah, Kali’s a brave soul.”
“It’s when she came back up out of the quiche that got me,” Dania said. “Like, her pushing her face in the quiche was funny enough, but that look when her face comes up and it’s just covered in little bits of quiche was the best part.”
“Definitely,” Gwen said. “They did a really good job of working audience interaction into the show.”
Dania nodded. “They really did.”
“Like, usually,” Gwen continued, “when you tell the audience, ‘let’s all say this thing together,’ you get this general kind of ‘eh’ murmur of people not wanting to. But they got an entire theatre to say – no, like, yell…”
“I AM A LESBIAN,” the three girls said in unison.
“That was impressive,” Gwen finished.
“Totally,” Dania said. “Man, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be Marjorie, and have the entire audience just be against you from the beginning.”
“I think that person gets told what’s coming ahead of time,” Gwen said. “I saw Hale take that nametag back at the end, so I think he tells them about it.”
“That makes sense,” Eleanor said. “Still, other people get singled out. We would have if we had been in the front row.”
“Oh, shoot,” Dania said suddenly. She looked down at her shirt, and slowly detached the plastic nametag from the front of it.
She looked to the others. “We were supposed to return these, weren’t we?”
“Darn.” Dania said. She looked over the nametag. “I guess there won’t be anymore ‘Marie’ in future meetings of the Susan B. Anthony Society.”
“I’m sure they have more nametags than necessary,” Eleanor said.
“I think what impressed me most, about the script at least,” Gwen continued, “is that it just kept going. You think they’re about to run out of material, and then they suddenly find a new way to keep the audience invested in more stuff happening.”
“Yeah,” Eleanor said. “It really could have ended a few times earlier. But I’m glad it didn’t.”
“It’s very well paced,” Gwen continued. “It knows just how long to spend on each moment and where all the jokes fall.”
“Maybe that explains why it’s only an hour long,” Dania suggested.
“Exactly,” Gwen said. “If it were any longer, it would feel too long.”
“Plus, it’s the kind of short little comedy thing we need at the end of Week 9.”
“I suppose that too.”
“Yeah,” Eleanor agreed. She took one last look at the names on the program again, then folded it and placed it in her purse. “Nice work, Lipstick.”
“Welcome to StuCo,” Gwen concluded.