“Lesbians”: Living in an Elementary School Near You

Photo credit: Jake Scaltreto

Photo credit: Jake Scaltreto

Presented by Flat Earth Theatre
Written by Gina Young
Directed by Mariagrazia LaFauci

March 11-26, 2016
Arsenal Center for the Arts
Flat Earth Theatre on Facebook

Review by Travis Manni

(Watertown, MA) This play is super gay. I mean, yeah it’s really funny, and mega 90s, but it is super gay. And that is why it was pretty damn amazing.

This show was so vintage 90s it hurt. It triggered a nostalgia for my youth harder than a good Vanessa Carlton track, but what sets this show apart from running the risk of being a clichéd coming-of-age story is its gayness. It feels rare that sexuality is addressed at such a young age, but Tales of a 4th Grade Lesbo made it feel very natural and welcoming. Playwright Gina Young does a wonderful job of merging such heavy subject matter with great comedy to create a show that is unapologetically sexual and relatable.

In the opening act, we are retold the adolescent struggles of three lesbians who grappled with identity and finding the language to express their sexualities. The audience is bounced back and forth between the three storylines, one featuring a misfit outcast who finds aerobics videos erotic, another who labels herself butch, and a third Latina who feels too white among her Catholic school peers. All of the episodic scenes are interlaced with short musical breaks of chart-topping 90s hits that are comically rephrased to fit the scene.

The dynamic set of the show, which only required a handful of rotating, quick-change pillars were a great touch that helped carry the audience through the show’s various timelines. It’s also never not funny to watch full-grown adults play egotistical, bratty elementary school students. But the humor wasn’t just situational. Gina Young’s script had the entire audience by the metaphorical balls; Young is able to manipulate language with perfect comedic timing to provide endless laughs.

However, the show’s biggest hurdle was its length. As it stands, I couldn’t justify two full-length acts, especially when most of the second act felt dragged out and significantly deflated compared to the first. It became a revolving door of various scenes involving sexual tension, and the routine became a bit boring.

That said, the ensemble and lead players were an absolute treat to watch. Almost every actor played at least two characters but I never felt overwhelmed because each part was owned and portrayed with the perfect amount of intention. And while all cast members contributed equally, my favorite performance was Julia Alvarez’s grumpy school teacher with a tart accent so strong it could slap the mischievous smile off your face, though a charmed grin was stretched across my own throughout her entire scene.

It is femme, it is butch, it is lesbian motherfucking feminism, and it is a beautifully hilarious thing.

Tales of a 4th Grade Lesbo runs for 2 hours, 30 minutes with one intermission. To purchase tickets, click here.

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