Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Beebo Brinker Chronicles (Play Review)

On Thursday, October 15th “queer” history came to life at The Re-Bar. The Beebo Brinker Chronicles opened to an enthusiastic house that included Queen of Lesbian Pulp Fiction, Ms. Ann Bannon, herself. Featuring the talents of Rhonda J. Soikowski as Beebo, Polly Wood as Laura, Tom Stewart as Jack, Christopher Dodge as Charlie, and Opal Peachy as Beth with appearances by producers Cherry Manhattan, Sasha Summer Cousineau and Donna Stewart, The Beebo Brinker Chronicles, is a hot and sexy piece of dramatic camp.

Okay, so what exactly is “dramatic camp”? You know it took me awhile to figure that out but if you go to the show with that descriptor in mind if will save you a touch of confusion. The show walks a fine line between real and over the top. This was off putting (for me) at first. A “drama queen” at heart, I like having my heart tugged on at shows, and the back and forth took me by surprise. Still when I realized, “Duh! This is pulp fiction” it all made sense. It is a genre of art we are no longer familiar with and to see it on stage, well it took a few scenes to get used to. Still once you’re on that train with Laura, the ride is pretty smooth.

The show started off with a classic “noire” scene between the characters of Beth and Laura. Laura wants Beth to run away with her, and Beth leaves her for Charlie. This ‘betrayal’ sets the story in motion and the unresolved romance will haunt both characters through the next nine years. We see the first repercussions of this in some fairly intense dramatic scenes between Beth and her husband, Charlie. Beth is a confused, closeted lesbian, who in my opinion is little more than a selfish child. Charlie is a caring if na├»ve, all-American boy who knows his wife is ‘queer’ but has hoped throughout their marriage that his love and their children would be enough to hold her. As the story unfolds we find this is not the case.

Immediately however, the show shifts from drama to light hearted camp. We are introduced to Laura and Jack, and shortly after to Beebo. T. Stewart as Jack is an over the top eccentric and interesting contrast to the seriousness of his “Mother.” Polly Wood as Laura is a serious tortured soul, caught up in her romanticized college relationship with Beth, and at the same time coming into an awareness of her sexuality. Soikowski as Beebo is charming, boyish and in a word incorrigible. The three form a sort of ‘love’ triangle, and through the rest of the play the journey and changing relationships provides the major story arc.

Producers Cherry, Sasha and Donna all make appearances in the show. The scene between Marcie (Cherry) and Laura was heart wrenching (and I am told spoke deeply to a number of young lesbians in the crowd), Donna as Lili was a total scene stealer (loved it!), and Sasha as a tortured lesbian author was smoldering, callous, calculating and terribly funny. Each added some wonderful moments in the play, providing motivation for growth and change.

The primary actors each brought talent and heart to the table.  Rhonda was delightful, sexy, pitiable and frustrating all where she needed to be.  Erin drew the audience in, and really made them feel.  Opal expertly portrayed the frustrated, slightly unstable, and childish Beth. Her performance was fine enough that I didn't much care for her by the end of the night, and I really should get to know her because I understand she is actually a lovely person!  It was easy to sympathize with Christopher's Charlie.  BTW, Christopher also played the character of Burr, and his portrayal of both the positive and negative sides of the naive/egotistical straight boy was nicely done.  As a certified "Dutch Boy" I relate with the character of Jack, and though I would have liked him to easy up on the bluster once in awhile, I enjoyed Tom's take on Jack.

The play itself is not a perfect construct. It is three books condensed into a two hour production; and as such, there are gaps that I wanted filled, character development I wanted elaborated on, etc. I’d like to see someone take the source material and put it on the screen, a mini-series would be appropriate… someone pitch it to HBO. With the exception of the ladies in this production no one does staged sex better (and yes there are some hot sex scenes in the play). The staging and sporadic narrative bits gave the play a sort of graphic novel feel that I found very interesting and intentional or not, approaching each scene like a graphic “panel” was smart. Kudos Katjana, for choice or instinct!

At its heart The Beebo Brinker Chronicles is about growing up through heart break. Laura matures through the loss of Beth, her experience with Marcie, the trials with Beebo and relinquishing her stubborn self-dependence. Beebo matures, when for the first time in her life she experience lasting love than suffers true loss. And Beth, well… the play ends with the hope that Beth too can grow, and learn from her own heartbreak.

Ladies and gentlemen, I do hope you get a chance to see The Beebo Brinker Chronicles, playing at The Re-Bar every weekend through October 9th. It has the power to make you laugh, cry, and most importantly to remember and think. As Ms. Bannon shared in her post-performance address to the audience, this play and the passion its members bring to it would have shown her friends who had struggled through the real life trials of 1950/60s gay life, that their hardships would not be forgotten and perhaps even been worth it. We are not where we need to be, but we are worlds apart from where we were. That is thanks to people like Ann Bannon and the women (and men) she knew in her youth. Brava divas!


Fosse Jack

PS: I wish that Stage Manager, Leslie Manning was in the Re-Bar booth more often.  The technical aspects of the show went off without a visible hitch.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Burlesque Social Club!

Bonjour Mes Ames! Gutten Tag Meine Freunde! ‘Ello Mates!

I am really excited about a new weekly event that is coming up at the beginning of October. I’ve been given the opportunity to help put this puppy onto the course and I’d love to have you be a part of it! The Burlesque Social Club “produced” by Miss Fuchsia FoXXX, is going to happen every Monday night at Velvet in SoDo.

Have you heard about Velvet? Wow, so much to tell. Okay, so Velvet is a new private club just south of Safeco Field and it is going to be THE new hot spot in Seattle. A constantly evolving piece of reclaimed industrial history, Velvet is raw sensuality incarnate: rough, hard wood floors, bare beams, sexy art and antique finishes and all of it dripping with red velvet, silks and lace. It’s like walking into a New Orleans bordello or Old Seattle ‘seamstress’ abode. If my descriptions aren’t enough consider this, Fuchsia FoXXX helped design it. Sexy huh? No, seriously y’all it’s awesome.

Velvet’s going to be having some pretty cool events coming up, so I highly recommend checking them out! Also, look them up on Facebook!

Okay so now you know where it is, I guess I should explain more about what it is. Well simply put its “Fancy People Relaxing.” The hardworking girl that she is, Fuchsia knows that there is a definite need for folks in our community to have a retreat, a place for performers to just hang out. I LOVE working, doing shows, getting ready for shows, etc but a big part of that love is the people I work with. It’s you!

Now because we are all a bunch of workaholics (often broke workaholics), setting aside time and money to go out and socialize is not always on our priority list. Fuchsia and Velvet would like to change that.

The Burlesque Social Club is a day of the week set aside for socializing, talking shop, informal networking, hanging out, or just relaxing with friends, all in a really awesome space. Fuchsia is lining up ‘entertainment’ in the form of “Performers’ Picks” movie nights. Whether it’s a community showing of a local work, a piece of historical burlesque or artistic inspiration, you’ll get to see some local artist’s favorite films. I mean what better way to watch “A Wink And A Smile,” “Waxie Moon,” some classic Betty Page, or really anything, then with a group of burlesquers?

That’s the point of The Burlesque Social Club. It is an event FOR burlesquers and those that love them. It’s for you! And the kicker is that there’s NO COVER. Seriously, Velvet is opening its doors to the community. There will be some complimentary beverages, some snacky type food, and lots of awesome folk.

The Burlesque Social Club goes up on Monday, October 3rd and is going to happen every Monday afterwards! Again, that’s October 3rd, 6:00pm (movie at 7:30pm) @ Velvet; 1700 1st Ave South (it’s on the second floor, so more details to come about getting up there). Show up, hang out, chit-for-chat, and then will watch a movie! What movie you may ask? Well to get us started we’ll have Miss Kitty Baby sharing one of her favorites!


~ Fosse Jack