If you attend a performance of the Ringwald Theatre’s production of “Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche,” you’re in for more than just an absurdist comedy about a women’s society quiche breakfast. You’ll be joining the society yourself.
Audience members will be greeted in character at the door by two of the show’s five actresses, offered punch and given a (female) name tag.
“Immediately, sometimes when you go to the theater and it’s interactive, you’re just like, ‘Oh God, I don’t want to be a part of this,’ ” laughs actress Vanessa Sawson, who staffs the door in the character of Ginny. “But luckily it’s nice enough where it’s not too invasive.”
The audience will be along for what may seem a rather standard ride, but it quickly takes a few left turns. The year is 1956 and the five actresses are members of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein. Many a double entendre is made about the ladies’ propensity for eating quiche (incorporating sausage into their recipes would be unthinkable).
The Cold War-era setting provides the backdrop for darker and deeper developments when it becomes apparent that nuclear war outside may have left the society’s members as the last women on earth.
“There’s the possibility of the end of the world happening around them, which leads them to come to realizations about themselves that they would otherwise be too inhibited to admit,” says director Brandy Joe Plambeck.
Beyond the risqué comedy at the surface, both Sawson and actress Suzan M. Jacokes (who plays Vern in the show) describe “Five Lesbians” as a story about the lengths people will go to find and maintain fellowship.
“We talk a lot about how the ladies seem to actually be part of a cult,” Jacokes says. “They all have a deep need to be a part of something. First they are all widows together, then they are all lesbians. They just want to fit in.”
The show premiered in Chicago in 2011 and has since been performed off-Broadway, where it received a favorable review from the New York Times. But in every city, every production of the show is a little different. Throughout the script, playwrights Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood indicate in brackets areas where the cast is encouraged to improvise and interact with the audience. Plambeck says his cast includes improv veterans from Planet Ant and the Second City Detroit.
“To have a playwright give you permission in that regard is really neat, especially when you have people who can handle it and play around with it and feel out the audience and try something different if it feels right,” he says.
Plambeck says the interplay onstage is helped along by the fact that the small cast has “bonded and clicked” as well personally as their characters do in the show.
“It especially helps for a show like this that is in many ways about sisterhood and supporting each other and coming together in a time of crisis,” he says. “I mean, we’ll see. We have a few more weeks left, so they may tear each other’s hair out. But hopefully not.”
Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.
‘Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche’
8 p.m. Saturdays and Mondays
3 p.m. Sundays
Through Sept. 14
22742 Woodward, Ferndale