Bill Dawes and Autumn Dornfeld in a scene from "The Beebo Brinker Chronicles." Photo by Dixie Sheridan.
By Ellen Wernecke
Who knew what danger lurks in the hearts of women? The Hourglass Group’s delightfully campy “The Beebo Brinker Chronicles” patterns itself after (and gently satirizes) a series of lesbian pulp novels by Ann Bannon in which smart singles and housewives succumb to the allure of the girl underworld. Unlike the lesbian-themed novels which had preceded it, Bannon, herself an unhappily married woman who would come out in the 1980s, let her characters rest in the knowledge that they loved women, even if the women they loved didn’t return their affections. (“The Beebo Brinker Chronicles” plays ‘50s notions--like the idea lesbian women could be “cured” by marriage--for laughs.)
Once, Laura (Marin Ireland) and Beth (Autumn Dornfeld) were lovers; now, Laura lives in Greenwich Village with a crush on her roommate (Carolyn Baeumler) and a gay best friend named Jack Mann (David Greenspan). Frustrated in love, Laura falls into bed with the notorious womanizer Beebo Brinker (Anna Foss Wilson), whose passion for the naïve blonde turns into a controlling affair from which she’s desperate to escape. Eight years later, Beth leaves her husband and goes to New York to meet her favorite novelist (Baeumler as well) and find her first true love.
At once slick and melodramatic, “The Beebo Brinker Chronicles” zings merrily from the shadowy Cellar bar to bedroom scenes, downtown to uptown (through Rachel Hauck’s clever set design). There’s a lot of dramatic door-slamming in between the voice-over narrations shared by several characters, but make no mistake, even the perfectly malevolent Wilson as Beebo, who draws on predatory figures the pulp genre loves, is depicted with a wink and a smile. If you can’t laugh at a character’s comment like “That’s the awful thing about lesbians, they have no discrimination,” this isn’t your weekend entertainment, but like the pulpy books it was based on, it’s a niche worth visiting.
Through October 28 at the Fourth Street Theatre
83 East Fourth Street
For more information, visit HourglassGroup.org.