Playwrights: Barbara Lhota and Linza Suzuki
At: The Bailiwick Repertory,
1229 W. Belmont
Phone: 773-883-1090; $20
Through: June 17
BY CATEY SULLIVAN
Clocking in at a pleasant but slim 55 minutes, Penchants and Fantasies: A Lighthearted Look at Lesbian Love leaves you feeling short-changed. And while each of the one-act playlettes in the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre's Second Sex Series makes for an amusing diversion, Lesbian Love feels incomplete. It's as if the huge demands of Jerry Springer: The Opera, also running in the Bailwick, have sucked up all the theater's resources, leaving only enough behind for a not-quite-complete show to run in tandem with the talk-show musical.
Lesbian Love begins with Barbara Lhota's Personal Penchants, a 25-minute skit about online dating. Louise ( Cat Kusch ) and Jackie ( Lisa Herceg ) are engaged in the ritual of typing out personal ads on their respective laptops. Or rather, Louise is composing a personal while Jackie is reading it with varying reactions. The juxtaposition between Louise's struggle to find just the right adjectives and Jackie's reaction to the words is amusing—there's something wonderfully human about the way standard English can get so utterly lost in translation as it moves through cyberspace.
The two women meet for coffee, with the bespectacled, clunky Louise clumsily dropping things and stammering over her words while the slightly older and far more suave-seeming Jackie makes cracks about her ginormous breasts and assumes the role of seasoned sophisticate. It's a case of total opposites, a lesbian version of When Harry Met Sally. Louise is nerdy, reserved and initially not even sure she is a lesbian ( something playwright Lhota resolves by trotting out a list of stereotypes involving Melissa Etheridge and Helen Mirren ) . Jackie is brash, impulsive and a real talker: In a non-stop monologue about herself, we hear about her legion experience with women, pregnancies, drug overdoses, prostitution, stripping and a lifetime's worth of other Jerry Springer-worthy traumas, all capped off with a breath and a 'So that was high school.'
As was the case when the women were exchanging cyberchat, the audience sees what each gal is thinking as well as saying. The reactions are clever and funny, all leading up to a somewhat surprising and sensual finale.
In Linda Suzuki's The List, an anniversary celebration takes a twist when the worldly Sue ( Deanna Boyd ) hires the gorgeous hooker Lydia ( Cyra K. Polizzi ) to help celebrate the milestone with her partner Delia ( Kusch, playing another reserved, relatively inexperienced lesbian ) .
Suzuki's piece is really about two issues: the dynamics of sexual fantasy and the politics of hooking. It doesn't adequately mine either, but it's glossy and humorous in what it does have to say. ( 'You have any idea what kind of insanity this world would descend into if everyone who pays for sex suddenly had to find if for free? I feel like every time I get a client off, I'm doing my part for world peace,' Lydia exclaim at one point. )
With the addition of another two stories of lesbian love, Lesbian Love could make for a lovely, lively evening.