Who says lesbian theatre can’t be funny? In a queer theatre scene seemingly dominated by lesbian-feminist productions that are either too didactic or too politically on-point, members of the Leaping Thespians, a Vancouver women’s theatre troupe specializing in lesbian productions, were eager to play against type.
Actor Leigh Burrows was given the task of finding a suitable comedic script during a trip to Mexico two years ago. After digging through stacks of lesbian plays and coming up with little in the way of funny scripts — “[they] were too dated, too political, not enough people,” she recalls — Burrows stumbled upon Brides of the Moon.
She was hooked.
“I laughed my ass off just reading the script,” Burrows says of the campy 1996 sci-fi comedy written by New York sketch comedy troupe, Five Lesbian Brothers. “It’s just nutty and out there and sounded [like] so much fun to do.”
Brides of the Moon’s quirky fun oscillates playfully between dysfunctional family life on Earth and the burgeoning sexual tension among a group of female astronauts aboard the BJ15 spaceship.
The crew, on a mission to seduce men on a far-off space resort, finds themselves thrown off course after their vessel suffers an unexpected accident. Things get complicated when their Sex Drive Implants (SDIs) stop working properly, causing the women to fall in love with each other instead of the men they were intended for. Spacesuits are unzipped with abandon, along with the inhibitions of those who wear them. An intergalactic struggle ensues when it’s discovered the fate of the astronauts lies in the hands of a Midwestern family on Earth.
New Leaping Thespian Kiri McGuire delivers one of the play’s best performances, expertly inhabiting the skin of two characters: lonely, earthbound Carmen and BJ15 crewmember Gabrielle. The latter is a satirical cosmopolitan foil to the down-home Bridget, played by Deloris Piper. Burrows plays the BJ15’s hard-nosed Commander Tylie Holway, punctuating the role with dry wit and punchy physical comedy.
“Being all political, it gets a little tiring,” Burrows acknowledges. “We wanted to just create really cool theatre for our audience,” she says of the piece.
“The story might have a theme of gay or lesbian content, but it has stories and lives that can relate to anyone’s experience,” adds Piper.
For director Karen White, Brides of the Moon adds a much-needed injection of comedy into the lesbian theatrical canon.
“There are quite a few lesbian plays published, but there’s very few comedies,” she says, noting there are also very few that are by, for and about lesbians.
“[The Five Lesbian Brothers] is one of the few groups that we found that consistently write comedy and satire with a really strong feminist perspective, without that being the theme or the point,” she adds.
In the context of a changing lesbian cultural landscape over the last 30 years, finding new material that resonates with the Thespians has been challenging, White admits. After all, one of the troupe’s key aims is sourcing art that holds up a mirror to its members.
“Thirty years ago, we wanted to have feminist presses and lesbian presses. We wanted to have space where lesbians could put on plays. So it was sort of like, ‘Hello, see us, we’re lesbians, we’re here, we’re different.’ But now, it’s ‘Hello, see us, we’re lesbians, we’re just the same as you,’” White says.
“I don’t think that assimilation is ever conscious oppression. But our culture’s becoming endangered, anyway.”