Feature: Burgers from Five Guys? Nah! Quiche from Five Lesbians? Yeah!

Magnolia Theatre Company’s Five Lesbians Eating A Quiche: April 4th through 7th

By: Apr. 11, 2024
Feature: Burgers from Five Guys? Nah! Quiche from Five Lesbians? Yeah!
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Let’s face it, the world of theatre, at times, can be misogynistic. Even though we joke about the multitude of gay men that are involved in theatre, that does not mean it is exempt from the repercussions of “the patriarchy”. As a gay man myself, I understand this problem all too well, but here in Dayton, we have luckily had some incredibly impactful pieces that were not only led by women, but speak upon the experiences of womanhood.

Magnolia Theatre Company began not in Dayton, but in Pennsylvania in 2012 out of a necessity to create a space for women to have leadership roles as well as performing opportunities in the theatre industry, and to tell stories by marginalized writers in the pursuit of supporting diversity and equity. It has been a decade now since the founder, Gina Handy Minyard, moved the company to Dayton, and continued to create those opportunities for women. They made their debut in Dayton with Mo Gaffney and Kathy Najimy’s PARALLEL LIVES, but the first production I got to see by them was their cabaret fundraiser, BROADWAY BEVELED, where an ensemble of local talent got to sing show tunes that are traditionally sung by men in musicals.  

The company was unfortunately halted in 2020 due to the pandemic, but made their triumphant return as a non-profit group for the 2023-2024 season, which kicked off with THE MOORS by Jen Silverman, followed by BEHEADING COLUMBUS by Diana Burbano. Their season finale was the play I got to witness on Sunday, April 7th, 5 LESBIANS EATING A QUICHE by Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood, directed by Minyard, and stage managed by Alyssa Jenkins.

When I walked into the PNC Arts Annex for this matinee, I did not walk in as “Brennan” but as “Donna” , a member of The Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein. You see, the audience and I got to choose name tags containing names like “Donna” and “Marjorie” that transformed us into these 1950’s style housewives for this annual brunch event hosted by the leading members of said society. Before the story even began, we got to interact with said members in an improvisational ice-breaker that let us know this would not be strictly presentational. Once we got started, we got a taste of who the 5 leading members were and who would win the award for the best quiche contest, that is until disaster strikes. We hear the explosion of an atomic bomb and sirens going off, and are now trapped in the church basement at what feels like the end of the world. Throughout the rest of the story, the 5 women come to terms with their fate, and the fact that they are not the “widows” they pretend to be, but rather, lesbians. 

Vern Schultz, played by Vera Ryan Cremeans, is the stable, stern, “Rosie-the-Riveter” type who hosts the meeting and has prepared the church basement they are trapped in from said nuclear explosion. Cremeans is delightful in the genteel style of insult and physical comedy that keeps the pace up. Dale Prist, played by Sarah Gomes, is the group’s historian who in the end reveals a traumatic secret and makes a huge sacrifice to save the other women. Gomes gives this character a quirkiness that is warm and relatable, and holds your attention in her monologue moments. Skye Hodgkin plays Wren Robin, the member that initiates the coming out process as she gives us, the audience, the safety to proclaim our lesbian pride. She is like a firecracker on stage with her brisk, motivated movements and energetic enthusiasm. Emma Massey plays Ginny Cadbury, the British new girl who is eager to be a part of it all but also lets her emotions get the best of her. Her improvisational bits stand out as she embodies cat-like tendencies that heighten the comedy, and allows Ginny to break out of a prim and proper facade. Lulie Stanwyck, the leader of the lesbians, is played by Cydnie Hampton with this slinky-like presentation that is consistently hilarious. Her Lulie is dramatically campy as she milks every moment and is sharp with her reactions to the other characters.  

Gina Handy Minyard created a space as the director of this troup for them to express and experiment with their character concepts in tandem with the trust to improvise brilliant moments that were entirely different from previous performances over the weekend. She and her husband, Gary Minyard, also worked in designing the set, sound, and props. Most notable is the scenery that displays the church basement with bright and sharp blue beam patterns on the walls, but with touches of realistic details from the wall decor, to the gingham curtains and the embroidered tablecloth. Ara Beal as the lighting designer implemented key moments in the flashing warning lights during the atomic attack, and the comical bit of Dale monologuing in a blinding white spotlight that is just the security light. Charis Weible designed the costumes with historical accuracy and a pleasing, consistent color palette. Two notable credits also go to two of Magnolia’s board members, Rachel Robinson, who hand painted the two murals that play a significant part in the story, and Stephanie Radford, who was the the improv consultant for the cast to use improv comedy as part of their storytelling.

In retrospect, this was more than a comedic play, this was an opportunity to glimpse into a world where women who aren’t typical have to pretend to be so. Harkening back to a time where housewives depended on something stable, like a quiche brunch, in the unstable world of nuclear disaster, and the rigid standards of gender norms. So… what does the title of this article mean? Well, it’s a reference to the society’s motto, “No men, no meat, all manners”. These society women wouldn’t dare add any kind of meat to a quiche recipe, because, like “the patriarchy” meat overpowers the simply delicious taste of the egg. And in a world where women have to constantly fight for their rights in this country, sometimes you don’t feel like having a “meaty” burger, sometimes… you crave a fluffy quiche made with the incredible, edible egg! 

If you would like to learn more about Magnolia’s history and upcoming shows for the ‘24 - ‘25 theatre season, check out their website, magnoliatheatrecompany.com. You can also follow them on Facebook at Magnolia Theatre Company, and on Instagram at mtc_dayton. 

Feature: Burgers from Five Guys? Nah! Quiche from Five Lesbians? Yeah!


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