Friday, June 8, 2012

Ladies who lunch and their stand-up sisters

Posted by Jon Santiago on Fri, Jun 8, 2012 at 5:15 PM

I've always liked Robin Williams' line about comedy. "Comedy," he says, "is acting out optimism." You can't get a whole lot more optimistic than The Pink Collar Comedy Tour, performing stand-up for a stone cold sober crowd at 6 in the evening. The definition of a tough room.

Emcee David Lee Nelson (whose own show The Elephant in my Closet is at the Chapel Theatre) bounced in to get things rolling and must have instantly felt that getting this audience up to speed might take a bit of doing. Over the course of the show, things ramped up nicely. Comics Kaytlin Bailey, Erin Judge, Abbi Crutchfield and Carrie Gravenson took turns oonching the audience, not hesitating to abandon themes that weren't connecting and going for the gold with others that did. Acting out optimism paid off.

And I'm guessing that optimism is a regular feature of these women's lives. Each of them talked about a crappy job in their not-too-distant past, some ungodly variant of temp drudgery. The misfits in the workplace theme hits most people right where they live (or work, actually). It's comic paydirt. Probably therapeutic as well. Nothing relieves those latent homicidal tendencies like having somebody else throw them in your face and make you laugh about them. It's comforting. And hilarious.

Another hilarious show, What If? productions' Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche took us back to the days when ladies did not seek employment outside their homes. (According to the program, that was 1956). That year, I Love Lucy was riding high in its fifth of six seasons on our black and white TV screens.

Weird as it sounds, given that Lucy Ricardo and her BFF Ethel Mertz never set off anyone's gaydar, there's more than a little of their antic spirit in Five Lesbians. Part of that spirit is in the script by playwrights Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood. (Fess up, guys. Seriously. You had to have been fans of that rockin' redhead and her show. Am I right or am I right? The word "Vitameatavegamin" ring any bells?)

While Linder and Hopgood provided a solid foundation, full marks to the actresses who bring to these roles the kind of headlong, never leave a punchline un-punched, over-the-top glee that made I Love Lucy such a standard-setter for females in comedic roles. Five Lesbians is fluffy, beautiful, never half-baked, smooth, and richly brimming over with nutritive value. Delicious. I enjoyed their company.

We might also point out that, like Lucy at her best, the ladies of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein demonstrated great tenacity in the face of overwhelming obstacles. The tragic eradication of all poultry and eggs. A bloodless coup d'etat in the sisterhood. Oh, and that threat of total annihilation. In word and deed, they exemplified those words Lucille Ball left behind for all women comic kind. "I'm not funny," Lucy said. "What I am is brave."

If you get a chance to see either or both of these shows, do it. You can thank me later.

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