A Lesbian in the Pantry
reviewed by Mary Shen Barnidge in the Windy City Times
This quirky little tale operates on so many levels that we can hardly wait for Joe Latessa to turn his abbreviated scenario into a feature-length script, so that we can savor all of them. Its current 60-minute running time hints at personalities and dynamics that leave us, days later, curious to know more. And it’s a MUSICAL.
Lucy’s Mother is proud of her culinary talents, but whenever she sends her young daughter to the pantry, the latter does not return until their carefully prepared supper has grown cold and stale. Lucy attributes her tardiness to the Lesbian who lives in the kitchen closet—an invisible companion who beguiles the lonely child with enchanting games, helps her with homework, and tells her of the mysterious man—father? brother?—whose absence haunts this household riddled with gynecentric tensions. But as the intergenerational attrition escalates, who can afford to believe in fairies?
This might be the premise for a study in dysfunctional family relationships, perhaps engendered by the missing patriarchal figure, or simply a result of dueling hormones. Then again, it could be an allegory of rebellious youth seeking independence from parental restrictions. Or a metaphor for the innocents—represented by the Lesbian, whom we never hear and only rarely see—sacrificed to selfishly warring factions. Or maybe a caveat on the destructive folly of sublimating inner desires in desperate pursuit of superficial goals, material or spiritual. However nebulous its subtext, Latessa’s fable concludes with an affirmation of communal values, proclaiming our first duty to be the solace of those near us.
Narrated entirely in music, opera-style, Latessa’s melodies sometime recall middle-period Sondheim—in particular, Into The Woods—but Kristen Freilich and Shannon Strodel’s vocal expertise is unimpeachable, while the conviction with which they endow their archetypal characters likewise transcends the temptation to slam-bang ridicule. Currently sandwiched between late-night comedy revues in the Pipers Alley skybox, A Lesbian In The Pantry is an engaging fantasy that, with some further development, could find a well-deserved home in a friendlier neighborhood. Are you listening, Bailiwick?
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