Jennifer Harder and Nikole Beckwith in MilkMilkLemonade. Photo by John Alexander.
BOTTOM LINE: Gross childhood song. Delicious adult play.
Glittery dance numbers. Talking chickens. A creepy, wheezing grandmother and a thugged-out spider who lives under the porch. This is my kind of show. Watching MilkMilkLemonade is like taking in an episode of Sesame Street hosted by the guy from Blue's Clues singing Schoolhouse Rock tunes while tripping on LSD. Bizarre and beautiful and as poignant as it is silly-hilarious, Joshua Conkel's literary journey through farmhouse frustration en route to gorgeous, glitzy go-getting is both heartfelt and humorous.
Our hero, Emory (the lovable Andy Phelan), is a young man struggling to survive as a sparkling. showbiz-obsessed homosexual in No-where-ville, USA, under the poor and misguided tutelage of his emphysema-suffering Nanna (the disturbingly convincing Michael Cyril Creighton). No one understands Emory's desire to abandon the confines of rural life in pursuit of his dream to become the ultimate song and dance man in the neighboring city of Mall Town. No one, that is, except Linda the chicken (the engaging Jennifer Harder), who also entertains her own dreams of escaping the chicken shredder to become the Andrew Dice Clay of comedic poultry.
As fantastical as some of the script-based elements of MilkMilkLemonade may be, it is the strength and talent of the cast that brings the sparkle and pizazz to this piece. From the narrator, Lady in a Leotard (the wide-eyed and whimsical Nikole Beckwith) to nasty next door neighbor Elliot (the absolutely incredible Jess Barbagallo), the cast commits to each moment and makes each one so real, that as an audience member, one is reminded that those feelings of awkward pre-teen alienation are not so deeply hidden as just below the surface of one's protective adult veneer.
(The Management and Horse Trade Theater Group Present MilkMilkLemonade by Joshua Conkel through September 26th, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm at UNDER St. Mark's, 94 St. Mark's between 1st Ave and Avenue A. Tickets are $18 and are available at www.smarttix.com.)