Playwright: Patricia Kane
At: About Face Theatre at Victory Gardens, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
Phone: (773) 871-3000; $18-$28
Runs through: March 20
In the Bad Old Days before mandatory sex education, the paperback novels were there to teach us the Facts Of Life—not the birds and bees, but the FACTS. Though pretty soft-core by today's standards (even the 'dirty parts' we would search out with scholarly pertinacity), the ambiguity of their front-cover illustrations promised steam and sweat to fuel the fantasies—whatever they might be—of anyone willing to shell out the 35 cents. And now, from the company that gave us 1999's Xena LIVE!, comes this tongue-in-um, cheek homage to the gospels according to the Daughters Of Bilitis.
Patricia Kane's story is a distillation of generic scenarios: Terry Logan, a former WAF (as was Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, for those taking notes) is a drifter whose travels take her to Chicago in 1956, to a bar called The Well—whose decor resembles that of the tavern now known as Charmers—owned by Miss Vivian, CEO of a cosmetics empire. Other habituées include cheerful bartender Pepper, sullen waitress Bing (née Ava) and bashful bouncer Winny.
Soon repressed desires choke the atmosphere and secrets are ripped forth before all are rewarded with their heart's—or some organ's—desire.
Early lesbian pulps being often male-authored, the action tended to be heavy on innuendo and light on physical contact—a convention recognized by Kane who instead delivers dialogue steeped in film-noir poetry and nonstop double-entendre (example: 'She was all locked up and I didn't have the key,' laments Terry, 'I couldn't even find the hole!') along with a few engaging, if unnecessary, musical numbers, both authentic and replica.
Director Jessica Thebus has assembled a flawless cast: Julia Neary as the athletic Terry, Lesley Bevan as the icy Bing, Amy Warren (done up to look like Claudette Colbert) as the brittle Vivian, Hanna Dworkin as the wholesome Pepper and Jane Blass as the heroic Winny, whose abortive crossing of gender lines at her rifle-club almost proves her downfall.
'I'm a lesbian, plain and simple. I don't make any bones about it!' Terry declares—several times—with macho defiance. By Pulp's happy ending, it has become a rallying cry for all marginalized citizens whose day was slow in coming, but now blossoms forth in triumphant glory.