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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 23, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 38
Historic Beebo Brinker now at Re-bar
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Historic Beebo Brinker now at Re-bar

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The Beebo Brinker Chronicles
Re-bar
Through October 9


The slim, boyish woman sauntered into the bar, scanned the room full of eager women, and fastened her gaze on the petite blonde in the corner with the downcast, uneasy demeanor. There she was, the next conquest. She knew it instantly!

Seattleites have an opportunity to experience the groundbreaking 1950s Lesbian pulp fiction novels by Ann Bannon right here at Re-bar. The Beebo Brinker Chronicles, an adaptation of three of Bannon's novels focusing on Beebo Brinker and her conquests in New York's Greenwich Village, is being produced by independent company Cherry Manhattan Presents.

The script preserves the now-stereotypical film and pulp noir language of the '50s and '60s, which sometimes tends to undercut the characters' real and deeply felt emotional turmoil, but also serves to emphasize the vast cultural upheaval that the last 50 years have churned through in terms of acceptance of homosexuals in America. In Seattle, high school students routinely expect acceptance in coming out to friends and families these days, and most have zero understanding that people could be arrested just for a quick hug or even holding hands back then.

Beth (Opal Peachey), like many young women of the time, desperately wants to be 'normal' and dumps Laura (Polly Wood) to marry a young man in love with her, Charlie (Christopher Dodge). Laura, despondent and unmoored, travels cross-country to the mystical Greenwich Village, where people like her can gather, almost openly, in Gay bars. But Laura spends years pining desperately for Beth.

Establishing her life in New York, Laura rooms with Marcie (Cherry Manhattan), who is straight and looks a bit like Beth. Despite warnings from Gay friend Jack (Tom Stewart), Laura falls for Marcie in hopes that Marcie might 'learn' to love her back, and when that blows up, she succumbs to the allure of resident sex serialist Beebo Brinker (Rhonda J. Soikowski).

Soikowski plays Beebo with both the self-confidence of an established romancer and the hidden despair of someone who wants stability and doesn't quite know how to find it. Somehow, Beebo focuses on Laura, though the underpinnings for why Beebo would pick unstable Laura as the focus for her stability are not well established. Through the magic of theater, two years instantly pass, and now Laura is ready to break up!

There are some difficulties with the script, as this narrative demonstrates. There are also some moments of violence that have no consequences. Even so, as the story continues, the stereotypical distancing decreases and the character development increases, along with audience investment. By the end, though many questions remain, a real journey has taken place, with characters coming to grips with their present circumstances and becoming more in control of their destinies.

One of the strengths of the production is that all involved are fully committed to the subject matter and to the opportunities for historical education. Director Katjana Vadeboncoeur might have pulled her punches a bit too much in the sexually suggestive scenes (they are very 'tasteful'), but she keeps a clear eye on the period with the help of costumer Kelly McDonald, sound designer Joshua Lennon Pierce, and light designer Reed Nakayama. Also, photographer POC has created a great, fun display of pulp photo covers hanging on the walls at Re-bar (for purchase if you so desire).

To see the story of the love that dare not speak its name, go to www.brownpapertickets.com/event/184155 or call 800-838-3006.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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