MilkMilkLemonade: To Be Young, Gifted, and Queer
Joshua Conkel's brilliant new play MilkMilkLemonade is the hilariously absurd and moving tale of a young boy growing up Gay and artistic in a world that values neither. It's been pointed out before that homosexuals are unique among oppressed minorities in that the oppression comes not just from society but from their own families; Conkel provides a funhouse-mirror view of how legitimately frightening and confusing being a young Gay child can be.
Presented in the style of a children's pageant, with a lovingly detailed painted cardboard set of a chicken farm (by Jason Simms), we are introduced by our narrator, Lady in a Leotard (Nikole Beckwith), to fourth-grader Emory (Andy Phelan), his best friend Linda the Chicken (Jennifer Harder), his cancer-afflicted chain-smoking Nanna (Michael Cyril Creighton), and Elliot (Jess Barbagallo), the rough and mean neighbor boy who secretly appreciates Emory's special magic.
Emory is dying to get off the chicken farm and go to nearby Malltown, USA so he can audition for the "Reach for the Stars" TV show, and thereby find fame and fortune. Nanna crushes his dreams and takes away his glamorous doll Starlene. Meanwhile, it's processing day for the chickens on The Farm, and Emory is determined to rescue Linda, but he gets distracted by Elliot who wants to come over to play. I won't reveal any of the other breathtaking surprises that unfold, but the script keeps the audience laughing even while plumbing the depths of compassion for the characters.
The whole cast is great: Beckwith presents her Lady in a Leotard as a amusingly timid children's theatre performer- and then takes on other roles as needed, including translating Linda's clucking into human speech and playing a rapacious spider. Creighton (of the Internet sensation "Jack in the Box") is a hoot as Nanna. Jennifer Harder is glamorous and fun as the doomed Linda. Jess Barbagallo and Andy Phelan both give phenomenal performances as Elliot and Emory- they find the truth of their perfectly-observed characters with pinpoint accuracy.
Isaac Butler's direction is near-faultless, keeping the crazy and wild happenings grounded and meaningful.
There are one or two moments that don't quite work or musical numbers that go on just a bit too long, but the play is a fantastic piece of work. A must-see.
Horse Trade Theatre Group and The Management presents
By Joshua Conkel
UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1st Ave and Ave A) September 10-26, Thursday through Saturday at 8pm.
Tickets ($18, $15 students/seniors) are available by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444 or online at www.horseTRADE.info
Photo Credit: John Alexander...
Jennifer Harder, Nikole Beckwith, Andy Phelan