A heaping of hilarity, absurdity at TheatreWorks

The cast of “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche” — from left, Meghan Lisi, Ann Marie Hall, Jeanna Juleson, Gail Black and Erin Shelton.
John Moore Special to the Commercial Appeal

Photo by John Moore, (c) 2013 John Moore - TheJohnMoore@comcast.net

The cast of “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche” — from left, Meghan Lisi, Ann Marie Hall, Jeanna Juleson, Gail Black and Erin Shelton. John Moore Special to the Commercial Appeal

It is fitting that “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche” is being staged at TheatreWorks following a just-closed production of Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame.”

Both are one-act explorations about the end of existence. There is also food. And both dish up heapings of absurdity.

Chances are excellent that you’re going to find zanier material with “5 Lesbians,” (part of the POTS@TheWorks series) which director Liz Sharpe describes as “a one-hour romp of fun — hilarious, meaningful and with some sincere moments as well.”

Well, the New Moon production of “Endgame” had all that too, but still. The New York Times’ Ben Brantley described the quiche play this way: “Its raw and magnetic dementia seems destined to attract a cult following.”

Hmm, that still could describe “Endgame.”

Let’s let Sharpe give the rundown: “During the mid-1950s, a widow’s club known as the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein is having its annual quiche-off. Things go terribly wrong, a conference room becomes a bomb shelter and hilarity ensues.”

Sharpe continues: “The comedy comes from the way women had to carry themselves in that period. This breakfast was the only time they felt they had power.”

But, don’t you know it, a siren goes off signaling the prospect of nuclear annihilation. “There’s comedy even while tragedy is hitting them,” Sharpe says.

The play has become somewhat of a sensation. It was written by Evan Linder (a former member of Playhouse on the Square) and Andrew Hobgood with Chicago’s New Colony company. “5 Lesbians” was named Best Overall Production at the 2012 New York International Fringe Festival and is published by Samuel French. It ran off-Broadway as part of Soho Playhouse’s 2012-2013 season.

For Friday’s opening at TheatreWorks, Linder will be in attendance and Sharpe will be celebrating her directing debut. She’s taken on assistant director duties at Playhouse for a few years, “So they decided to give me a nice chance,” she says, “which is lovely.”

She says that it helps to have the cast she has — “It’s a director’s dream.” The experienced quintet mesh well together, Sharpe says, “and their comedy has gotten me through the nerves of my first directing job.”

It must be a good experience, because Sharpe says of directing, “I’ve enjoyed it and would like to do it for the rest of my life.”

As for content, “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche” is appropriate for ages 16 and older. “It’s mostly innuendo,” she says. “There is no harsh language but a lot of referencing.”

Apparently the title will keep a certain constituency away.

Sharpe said that about a year ago when she had just found that she’d be directing the show, she overheard a family at a restaurant who happened to be looking at a list of productions for the upcoming season.

“There was a mother and grandmother and perhaps a 16-year-old and a 13-year-old,” Sharpe says. “One of the girls said, ‘Oh, Mom, this looks funny!’ “ The mother peered at the roster of shows and declared, “We’re not seeing anything with ‘lesbian’ in the title!”

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“5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche”

Friday through July 28 at TheatreWorks, 2085 Monroe. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets: $22 Opening weekend (July 5-7), $30 Thursdays and Sundays, $35 Fridays and Saturdays. $22 Seniors/Students/Military. Info: 901-726-4656 and playhouseonthesquare.org

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