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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 13, 2005

Shes a lumberjack and shes okay

A new hire finds things a bit different in the
Five Lesbian Brothers� lumber mill

Cleveland--Who knew lesbians could be brothers?

In the world of theater, that is a fact, perpetuated by the Five Lesbian Brothers, a playwright-performer collective. Together since 1989, often working in the downtown New York arts scene, Maureen �Moe� Angelos, Babs Davy, Dominique Dibbell, Peg Healey and Lisa Kron have constructed hilarious plays and show-stopping acts, as well as short films for HBO and hostess duties for Showtime�s Late Night Out.

Cleveland audiences will get to laugh their butts off in May and June when Cleveland Public Theater produces their dark comedy The Secretaries.

Satire is the name of the game for the Brothers: in The Secretaries, four women working at the Cooney Lumber Mill in Big Bone, Oregon, accept a newcomer into their secretarial pool. However, acceptance into this clique has its price for innocent Patty (played by Liz Conway), as she is drawn into a world of pleasing boss Susan (local bisexual bombshell Alison Hernan) and chauvinist male pig Mr. Kembunkscher, scrutiny over weight, nights out of female bonding and the group�s favorite pastime, killing a lumberjack a month for his jacket. Sexism, group dynamics, office life, feminism and body fascism are cut up in preposterous ways in this, the most accomplished of the Brothers� plays.

Angelos explains that the genesis of The Secretaries came from the group watching the movie version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and being �duly horrified by the cheerful dance number about the rape of the Sabine women.�

�So we began improvising using the lumberjacks from the film and then we eventually got to the secretaries that worked in the mill,� Angelos continues. �They were much more real to us, as we had all at some point done stints as administrative support staff. Then there was also an interest in those sort of bad-girl, biker gang movies and comic books and pulp novels which we adopted. The crazed killers thing.�

For Angelos, the play is about internalized sexism. �We tried to look at the ways in which women in our culture become the foot soldiers of the patriarchy by self-enforcing standards of body size, looks and towing these lines. It is also about the anger that these standards whip up in women.�

The playwrights work as a collective, creating the plays and comedy acts together, often taking retreats to improvise ideas and flesh them out on paper. The five women always perform in the original productions. They got their start at the off-off Broadway Wow Caf� Theater in 1989, creating four plays there. The Secretaries won an Obie, and they have even toured to alternative theaters in San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, and Seattle, among others.

�Currently, I am happy to report, the Five Lesbian Brothers are writing a new show that will premiere later this summer at New York Theater Workshop,� said Angelos. �It�s called Oedipus at Palm Springs and tells the tale of a pair of vacationing lesbian couples in long-term relationships and how they are dealing with that reality, with a sidecar of the Oedipus story thrown in. We hope to tour it around this great land of ours.�

Perhaps Cleveland audiences will eventually get treated to the Brothers� latest. In the meantime, The Secretaries opens this weekend at Cleveland Public Theater and plays through June 4. Rounding out the cast are Denise Astorino of the LGBT arts group Wild Plum Productions, Meg Chamberlain and Sheffia Randall, with direction by Cleveland Public Theater�s openly gay executive and artistic director Randy Rollison.

The theater is located at 6415 Detroit Ave., and can be reached at 216-6312727, or on the web at www.cptonline.org.

 

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