BRIDES OF THE MOONby The Five Lesbian Brothers: Maureen Angelos, Babs Davy, Dominique Dibbell, Peg Healey, and Lisa Kron
Director: Terri Ferguson
Scenic Design: Catherine Brandt
Costume Design: Bruce R. Coleman
Lighting Design: Brooks Powers
Properties: Lynne Mauldin and Rebekka Koepke
Dialect Coach: Elly Lindsay
Original compositions by Will Varner and Rebecca Brooks,
featuring members of The Women’s Chorus of Dallas
Gabrielle Bichon-Frisse / Lynn Stone … Leslie Patrick
Bridget MacKinney / Ken Powers …Caroline Cole
Tylie Holway … Stephanie Butler
Dai Dai / Mrs. Steve Powers … Lisa Anne Haram
Slotya Rimjobovich / Carmen Powers … Kateri Cale
Reviewed Performance: 6/9/2017
Reviewed by Chris Jackson, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
To celebrate Pride Month, Echo Theatre has chosen Brides of the Moon by The Five Lesbian Brothers, a name used by the playwrights/performers Maureen Angelos, Babs Davy, Dominique Dibbell, Peg Healey, and Lisa Kron. For years, these “brothers” have been creating plays sure to spark conversation, aimed at the general audience. (Well, the ADULT general audience!) Echo Theatre doesn’t disappoint with a fun production that’s pleasing to the eye, the intellect, and the funny bone.
The Five Lesbian Brothers began as a company in 1989 at the Obie-Award-winning WOW Café Theater. Their plays have been produced off Broadway, off-off Broadway and across the country. The Brothers have received the Obie, Bessie and Lambda Literary Award and a 2011 Independent Theater Award for lifetime achievement and their plays appear in syllabi for theater and queer/feminist studies classes in many colleges and universities.
To quote the press release, “In this cautionary comedy set in the far – but impending – future, an all-female team of astronauts sets out to join an all-male crew who have been ‘…transforming the galaxy’s most desolate wastelands into the hugest most luxurious vacation spot ever!’ With a mission to procreate and develop a human community, they have a run-in with some floating space trash. When their pre-wired sex urges kick in, their broken ship becomes the love boat to Lesbos. Back on earth, it’s 2069 in Stinkle, Ohio and the Brides only hope for survival is an odd housewife with a broken microwave and a broken family.” Not your typical Sci-Fi story nor sit-com, it manages to use elements of both to get to some underlying truths about society and about sexual roles and expectations. Echo Theatre has put together a talented, willing and more-than-able cast, and a team of terrific designers to bring this story to Dallas during Pride Month. Judging from the reaction of the opening night crowd, their effort is greatly appreciated.
With the exception of Stephanie Butler, who plays only Commander Tylie Holway, the other cast members all play two roles, alternating between accents, wigs and costumes with alacrity and enthusiasm. Each characterization is delightful and well-rounded, thanks in no small part, no doubt, to Director Terri Ferguson, and the women seem to take deep satisfaction in getting an opportunity to stretch their acting muscles, with the audience equally entertained by the quick changes, especially at the end of the show, when they become lightning fast. Kudos to whoever is backstage helping out!
While this is definitely an ensemble show, perhaps the most outstanding performances are given by Kateri Cale in the double roles of Slotya Rimjobovich (!) and Carmen Powers, and LisaAnne Haram as Dai Dai and Mrs Steve. Ms. Cale delights both as the rather butch Slotya, regaling one and all with her Russian accent and confident strut, and as the typical teenaged daughter – though the character is supposed to be 31- with pink hair, glasses and lots of attitude. Ms. Cale’s strong stage presence and confident attack on her characterizations never fails to engage the audience’s full attention. She wrings laughs from every opportunity and helps to drive the show with her energy. Her final statement also manages to wring the heart.
Ms. Haram seems to be having a wonderful time as the monkey, Dai Dai, and as Mrs. Steve. As Dai Dai, Ms Haram runs around the stage making monkey noises and generally delighting the audience with her antics. Her scene of “consensual monkey sex” is a highlight! Totally different, her Mrs. Steve is the quintessential 50s TV housewife set in the year 2069. Each character is fully realized and great fun to watch and Ms. Haram handles both with ease and confidence.
Filling out the cast are Stephanie Butler as Tylie Holway, Leslie Patrick as Gabrielle Bichon-Frisse and Lynn Stone, and Caroline Cole as Bridget MacKinney and Ken Powers. Ms. Butler, as the commander of the mission, takes her seat center stage like Captain Kirk, sure of her mission and ready to do her job – if only those pesky same-sex feelings didn’t keep creeping in! Ms. Butler brings assurance and a wry perspective to her role.
As Gabrielle Bichon-Frisse, Ms. Patrick exudes world-weary sophistication as she smokes her Bitch cigarettes (“You’ve Come a Long Way, Bitch”) and observes the world through her French accent bon mots. As Lynn Stone, Ms. Patrick is the very epitome of an older, jilted astronaut in an uneasy friendship with Carmen. Characters Bridget MacKinney and Ken Powers are brought vividly to life by Caroline Cole who has fun bringing all the “girly-girl” aspects of Bridget, a civilian school teacher eager to meet the men and “comfort” them, to full effect, and then becoming the dad-on-the-couch, Ken Powers with slicked down hair and sit-com dad demeanor. It’s a great transition for the actress to play with, and to the audience’s amusement, she nails it.
The visual elements are particularly strong in this production thanks to the talents of Bruce Coleman and his madly colored and bespangled outfits that perfectly capture the tone of the satire and put it into perfectly realized visual terms. Also thanks to Scenic Design by Catherine Brandt and Props Design by Lynn Mauldin and Rebekka Koepke, the audience has an eye candy space ride filled with a background of dials, buttons, wheels and magic glowing orbs, and spot-on props totally right for the space ship and the kitchen spaces and arrested development bedroom of the thirty-one year old adolescent!
Sound Design by Rebecca Brooks and Lighting Design by Brooks Powers go a long way to support and enhance this futuristic tale. Jingles about Hambergoo, “the meat paste with the real burger taste!” and Bitch Cigarettes are just some of the fun effects with original compositions by Will Varner and Rebecca Brooks that feature members of The Women’s Chorus of Dallas. Lighting Design by Brooks Powers is by turns naturalistic, spooky, and ethereal, especially through the portal upstage, with all design elements coming together to help create the world of this “spacey sendup of interplanetary travel,” as one critic put it.
“Dying is easy. COMEDY is hard,” as a life-exiting actor once said, and director Terri Ferguson has her hands full finding exactly the right tone and pace for this script with its special effects, multiple characters and sassy, yet serious, subtexts. It is to her enormous credit that, for the most part, she and her talented cast and tech crew have succeeded. Attacks and characterizations are clear, production elements all work really well (including dialect work by Elly Lindsay) and the show has a gloss and finish that befit this fine theater company. Moments of weightlessness are delightfully enacted both in the cabin and through the portal, and the lesbian sex scenes are handled with comedic taste and tongue-in-cheek aplomb.
Other critics have pointed out that the script runs long, especially in the second act, and the air conditioner can compete with the actors when it clicks on, but the show finds its own momentum, and the audience goes happily along with our astronauts as they deal with breakdowns, malfunctioning Sex Drive Implants and a world ruled by the Disney Corporation and “It’s a Small World After All” logo while they await rescue by a housewife talking to them through her microwave!
There is also deeper commentary about where society is headed as we become farther and farther self-involved in technology and passively wait for others to fix our problems while we watch TV shows like Blameshifters, and the still changing roles of women (after all, these women are being sent to meet the “lonely” men and procreate happily). All of these things are there in the script for the finding and discussing, if you choose. But mainly, the Brothers are having fun and inviting us to join them, so for those looking for a theater break during Pride Month, this certainly fills the bill, and for those just looking for a fun evening, you could certainly do worse than spend some time with the Brides of the Moon. You won’t regret the trip.
Bath House Cultural Center
521 East Lawther Drive
Dallas, TX 75218
Runs through June 17th, 2017
Thursdays at 8pm: $10
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm: $30
Saturday matinees at 2pm: $20
For information and to purchase tickets, go to TicketDFW.com or 214-871-5000
Discounts for Groups of 10+ / echo Subscriber / KERA / Industry