A lonely butter knife waits for love in 'Kitchen Sink.'
There's always something appealing about the smorgasbord approach to an evening of theater. Given the mix of 10 short plays in Queer Shorts 6 by StageQ, there's a briskness of pace and a lightness. Each short lasts no longer than 10 or 15 minutes.
The tradeoff, of course, is that the plays generally don't contain the depth or character development of a longer play -- but, for this mostly comedic collection, that's an OK choice to make.
Queer Shorts is a popular annual tradition for the theater company, and a sizable, appreciative crowd attended Friday night's opening on the Bartell Theatre's Drury Stage, the larger and more comfortable of its two venues.
One of the evening's highlights is "Happy & Gay," written by Mary Steelsmith of Los Angeles. As two older ladies decorate a church basement for a same-sex couple's wedding reception, they reflect on how times have changed.
As Betty, Louise Stout has some hilarious lines; everything she thinks she knows about gay culture she's apparently learned from TV. Clad in a frumpy sweatshirt festooned with hot-air balloons, she proudly trots out slang like "gaydar" and "bitch-slap." While this set-up may sound a bit mean -- making fun of a nave older woman -- it's actually quite the opposite. There's an affection undergirding the dialogue and a bittersweet reflection on how, even in a still-unequal world, an older generation has missed out on some of the promise of the younger.
"Sirens," by Carol Mullen of Pittsburgh, is a playful spoof on "Law & Order"-style cop shows, but with a lesbian twist. The hammy acting and running gags (like when Sarah Listug, as a police captain, periodically yells "Nail the bastard!") work in this context. Laura Spring and Val Davis are detectives Smith and Wesson, respectively, whose commitment to crime fighting is second only to exploring their sexual tension.
"Kitchen Sink," the evening's opener (by John C. Davenport of Seattle) is a bit cutesy but still fun; a lonely butter knife (Nathan Figueroa) waits for love in a kitchen sink, consoled by his friend, a sponge (Laura Spring). "Mysterious Wonderland" (by another Seattleite, Suzanne Bailie) gives Christine Esche a goofy comedic role as a G-spot, which she handles brilliantly.
Queer Shorts 6 ends on a local note with Sherrie Johnson's "Resources of Wisconsin," featuring a group of tourists admiring the mural of the same name inside the Capitol dome. Louise Stout returns as Margret, a repressed woman whose overheated imagination sees a lesbian orgy in a neoclassical mural. Her chant ("What's disgusting? Lesbian lusting!") drew laughs given its timely riff on recent protest slogans.
Not surprisingly, sets for Queer Shorts 6 are minimal, since there need to be quick shifts from one short to the next. In some of the pieces, slightly wooden acting or clichéd writing keeps emotions from being fully believable. But, all told, Queer Shorts 6 makes for an enjoyable, light evening of theater.