Hope Thompson’s play Stiff is reminiscent of a 1950s murder-mystery film, but this time around the lesbians don’t get cut out or killed — they get a happy ending.
As the play opens, someone has just been killed, and two seemingly heterosexual couples are waiting in a room for a detective to take their statements. The four people are drinking too much, and the pressure of the situation is taking its toll.
Many older films feature characters who are not explicitly queer, but to a present-day audience it's obvious they were sort of meant to be. Thompson gives the example of the various “unmarried best friends” in film noir.
Thompson likes to write scripts that are like these classic films but in which the marginalized, most likely queer, characters are brought to the forefront and made more explicitly queer. “I like reworking stories so that they are like artifacts from a past that never really existed,” she says.
In the case of Stiff, there’s a lot of repression going on. “Everyone is hiding something: guilt, desire, passion, true intent,” Thompson says. Fuelled by liquor and anxiety, all this baggage starts bubbling to the surface. “The undercurrent of lesbianism is still not totally explicit, but they have a happier ending. [In a film from the 1950s] they would have been murdered or cut out of the story at a certain point and only there to prop up other characters.”
Stiff will be performed as part of a three-act show called Fear and Desire (and the Whole Damn Thing). The other two acts are a revival of People Are Horrible Wherever You Go, by David Roche and David Bateman, and a monologue-based piece by local performers Jenna Harris, JP Larocque and Jessica Moss. The evening will be hosted by Keith Cole and his never-quite-hidden scrotum.