The cast of The Lesbian Love Octagon
BOTTOM LINE: A musical comedy about dyke drama with great performances and cool original music.
With all the original musicals that are produced in basements around New York City, you never know what you're going to get when you step down into a theater. Happily, The Lesbian Love Octagon is well-written, smartly directed and wonderfully performed. This show reminds you how exciting it can be to see original material.
The plot revolves around Sue (Susan O'Dea), a lesbian serial monogamist who deals with her most recent breakup as she navigates her way through her newfound single-hood. O'Dea plays Sue as a likable every-lesbian who is honest and sincere, even though she's surrounded by a cast of zany characters. Her circle of friends provide her with support, advice, wheat grass shots, cocktails, and even an orgy. The show has every imaginable lesbian stereotype from diesel dyke to femme to Justin Bieber lookalike, but the roles are written with such heart that each one is a real person instead of just a caricature.
Composer Will Larche and writer/director/lyricist Kim Kressal have created a show that is completely entertaining, with music that seems to draw inspiration from many different Broadway composers. The opening number, "An Ordinary Day at the Wimmin's Bookstore," has hints of Stephen Sondheim, while other songs bring to mind William Finn, Adam Guettel, Jeanine Tesori and even a hint of Leonard Bernstein. One song, "It's Not You, in which Sue revisits her many breakups, sounds like Burt Bacharach. The song is very funny, and you don't have to be gay or lesbian to relate to all the excuses Sue's exes give at the end of their relationships. The biggest laugh comes when ensemble member Felicia Blum sings her verse as a cat saying only "meow." This is the way to take a small role and run with it.
Kressal makes smart directing choices and the show moves quickly. Even the scene changes are smooth and choreographed, with the ensemble singing about where the next scene will take place. This is smart, since the simple set consists mostly of well placed milk crates and revolving panels. The book and lyrics are quick and witty with all kinds of lesbian inside jokes about cats and U-Haul trailers.
All fourteen cast members are strong and for such a big cast, it's surprising how many of them get to have a star turn. Even those without large roles get to belt out a lyric and/or land a joke. Lindsay Naas plays a kooky lovelorn lesbian who has her way with every single line she says and wrings laughs out of even the tiniest bit. Ti, as a tough dyke with a heart of gold, gives singer Lea Delaria a run for her money. And Dana Musgrove is a femme princess who is funny, sweet, hot, and sexy - and she can sing too.
The Lesbian Love Octagon may not be for everyone, but its appeal definitely extends beyond the audience suggested by the title. The characters are relatable in their search for true love and happy endings. There are lots of sex jokes, some skin, and a few vibrators and dildos throughout the show, but overall this musical is about love. The Lesbian Love Octagon should have a life after this Equity Showcase - if only the right person sees it and carries it over to an off-Broadway house. While it certainly has a built-in niche audience, you don't have to be a lesbian to appreciate the great theater happening in this wonderful new musical. I left the theater excited to write this review, and that makes for my very own happy ending.
(The Lesbian Love Octagon plays at The Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street between Second and Third Avenues, through November 7, 2010. Remaining performances are Saturday and Sunday at 7pm. Tickets are $18. The run is sold out but tickets may be available at the door. For more information visit lesbianthemusical.com.)