BWW Review: TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE LESBO: Don't Ask, Do Tell
Tales of a Fourth Grade Lesbo
Written by Gina Young, with additional writing by Amanda-Faye Jimenez; Director/Sound Designer, Mariagrazia LaFauci; Producer, Amy Lehrmitt; Stage Manager/Vocal Coach, Elizabeth Ramirez; Tech Director, Adam J. Teti; Assistant Tech Director, Leigh Downes; Set Designer, Ben Lieberson; Costume Designer, Arwen Miller; Lighting Designer, Benjamin Blum; Dance Choreographer, Korinne T. Ritchey; Violence Choreographer, Arielle Kaplan; Props Designer/Marketing, Lindsay Eagle
Performances through March 26 by Flat Earth Theatre at The Arsenal Center for the Arts, Black Box Theater, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA; Box Office 617-923-8487 or www.flatearththeatre.com
Flat Earth Theatre opens their tenth anniversary season with the East Coast premier of Tales of a Fourth Grade Lesbo by Los Angeles-based playwright Gina Young, with additional writing by Amanda-Faye Jimenez. It is a poignant, yet humorous and cheeky exploration of growing up queer in the 90s through the eyes of three women storytellers. A youthful ensemble cast of seven women (most of whom play dual roles) and four men, under the direction of Mariagrazia LaFauci, portray girls and boys of varying ages and personality types, but you will recognize all of these kids and may see yourself among them.
The thin thread that runs through Tales of a FGL is that Gina (Malari Martin), Seven (Kathleen C. Lewis), and Amanda (Julia Alvarez) are writing a play. Their recollections are acted out by the troupe of girlfriends (Katharine Braun-Levine, Leah Carnow, Micah Greene, Arielle Kaplan) as they rehearse for the school talent show, perform their dance routines, and get in touch with their inner mean girls at one highly-charged pajama party. Raising a ruckus is a quartet of generic, goofy, pre-pubescent boys (Arthur Gomez, Matt Arnold, Alexander P. Roy, Lucas Commons-Miller), but their main contributions are to torment the girls or to be the object of a crush or two. However, with the theme being what it is, the presence of the boys more often serves as a catalyst for some lesbian self-discovery.
Young's sharpest focus is on distinguishing the girl characters and each of the women carves out her unique persona. Unfortunately, the playwright does not have them address each other by name very much, thus making it a challenge to match the actor with the role, as well as which of their two characters they are portraying at any given moment. The boy characters can be more easily identified after a few scenes, but they are less developed. The one thing they all have is the ability to sing and dance, and it's fun to watch them rock out with a hairbrush "microphone."
Tales of a Fourth Grade Lesbo is built on a foundation of vignettes (an overabundance), 90s-era dance routines (choreographed by Korinne T. Ritchey), and song parodies (vocal coach Elizabeth Ramirez) which may resonate depending on your generation. Young captures the awkwardness and anxiety of sexual awakening and feeling "different," checking in at various age points, but eventually piles the tower of tales too high and it topples under its own weight. Wonderful confessional speeches by Lewis, Alvarez, and Martin stand out, but would have greater impact if not for the excessive number of scenes in the two-act play. There is ample opportunity for each of the actors to strut their stuff and demonstrate the important themes that Young clearly grasps. May I suggest that less might actually be more, especially for an audience that gets it.
Photo credit: Jake Scaltreto (Leah Carnow, Kathleen C. Lewis, Micah Greene, Arielle Kaplan, Malari Martin)