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A Co-Production with Moxie Theatre
An irreverent comedy with music that serves as a sexy homage to the sultry, jazzy world of 1950’s lesbian pulp fiction.
In Pulp!, rough-edged Terry Logan finds herself booted out of the post-World War II Women’s Army Corp after an intimate brush with the General’s daughter. Her wanderlust lands her in “The Well,” a Chicago watering hole for women who love women. Pulp! is a fast moving, stylized piece featuring drag kings, cabaret jazz, love triangles and forbidden Sapphic lust. “Infectious…It deserves a cult following and a long run…Long may it sizzle.” The Chicago Tribune
MOXIE Theatre and Diversionary Theatre join forces to present Patricia Kane’s comedy with music Pulp! The co-production will preview on May 12 at Diversionary, open May 13 and run through June 11.
Pulp! is an irreverent comedy with music that serves as a sexy homage to the sultry, jazzy world of 1950’s lesbian pulp fiction. Fueled by heat, hormones and whiskey, Pulp! is smart, sexy and all that jazz, with delicious characters and period music. Kane also wrote the lyrics, with music by Amy Warren and Andre Pluess.
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Patricia Kane is an Artistic Associate at Chicago’s About Face Theatre where Pulp! premiered in the spring of 2004, garnering After Dark Awards for “Best New Work” and “Outstanding Production” and four Joseph Jefferson Award nominations, including “Best New Work” and “Best Original Music.”
In an article by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Kane said she wasn’t surprised that pulps are hot again. “The covers themselves are fun and have that campy, kitschy style,” she said. “And pulps and the covers of pulps themselves are simply fun and sexy. But pulps are also part of our history so it’s also fun to appreciate the covers and read the books and be grateful that we’re not living in that time anymore.”
Lesbian pulp fiction started out as masturbation stories for men and were written by men using pseudonymous female names. However, lesbians bought them too, and soon well-known lesbians such as Marion Zimmer Bradley, Patricia Highsmith and Marijane Meaker (best known as children’s author M.E. Kerr) were also writing them under assumed names, mostly for Gold Medal Books, an imprint of Fawcett Books. The books written by lesbians tended to portray lesbians as real women instead of predatory monsters, which lesbians of the era must have appreciated. Even the trashier ones at least validated the lesbian experience and they were bought by the score. In fact, lesbian pulp fiction became so popular that different sub-genres developed: there were lesbians in the military, lesbians in institutions, lesbians who seduced straight girls, lesbians saved by straight men and others.
Kane’s new play isn’t based on any of these books in particular. Instead, it captures the flavor of the genre, culling visuals from the most vivid covers and plotlines from the most sensational books. The language is melodramatic, Kane said, like old movies from the 1930s and 1940s. The drama is heightened by using poses reminiscent of the original pulp covers. However, Kane is careful to say that though the play is funny it isn’t mocking lesbian pulp fiction. “It’s not a send-up, so I guess it’s not true camp. In any case, the genre has its own inherent camp, so you don’t need to punch that up anymore. We enjoy the style of the genre but we don’t make fun of it,” she said. (end of Bradley article)
(In Alphabetical Order)
Jo Anne Glover, Jessica John, Liv Kellgren, Terri Park and Jennifer Eve Thorn.
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Delicia Turner Sonnenberg is a founder and Artistic Director of MOXIE Theatre. Acclaimed San Diego productions include the REP’s Proof (co-directed w/Sam Woodhouse), Dog Act (MOXIE/Patte award); Antigone, Children Of Heracles (6th @ Penn); The Haunting Of Jim Crow (UCSD); Fit To Be Tied (Diversionary/Patte); Kimberly Akimbo (Billie, Patte & SD Critics Circle awards); Othello (Women’s Rep/Billie award); and Taming Of The Shrew (Eveoke). Delicia worked as the Artistic Associate of San Diego REPertory Theatre as a part of TCG’s New Generations Program: Mentoring Leaders of Tomorrow.
Jason Southerland has produced eight mainstage seasons at Boston Theatre Works, where he is the Founding Artistic Director. He has directed the East Coast premiere of Rebecca Gilman’s latest play The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, as well as the New England premieres of Pulp, Homebody/Kabul, Not About Nightingales, The Laramie Project, and the world premiere of Low Flying Aircraft. Jason began his career an assistant director at the Mark Taper Forum, the Old Globe Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, and the Women’s Project. The Diversionary/MOXIE co-production will be co-directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg and Jason Southerland.
The stage manager is Thomas McCreary. David Weiner, Jeff Fightmaster and Shulamit Nelson make up the design team.
By Pat Launer
San Diego Theatre Scene
Try to Fathom local theater’s joys,
From to The Women to Master Harold ?and the Boys.
Local shows can become an addiction
From dance to drama to sexy Pulp fiction.
GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN
THE SHOW: PULP, a 2004 Chicago premiere by Patricia Kane (book and lyrics), with music by Amy Warren and Andre Pluess
THE STORY: 1956. Tough Terry Logan thinks it’s time to give a farewell wave to the WACs (after flying too high with one too many generals’ daughters) and she lands in Chicago, where she falls into The Well, a steamy lesbian bar . She soon takes up with one of its denizens — sexy, cynical Bing — but she’s really taken with the glamorous and mysterious owner, Vivian. Meanwhile, the blonde barista, Pepper, has a long-term hankering for Winny who, like Viv, is still trying to convince herself that she can make it with men. Everything sorts itself out by the end, which is happier than any of the mid-century lesbian pulp fiction the piece is spoofing. The story is really about sexual identity, being personally honest and self-accepting, and taking a chance on love. It’s a quirky, frothy romance, with music, comedy, drag and a bevy of beautiful women.
THE PLAYERS/THE PRODUCTION: The production boasts top-flight co-directors: Delicia Turner Sonnenberg (founder/artistic director of MOXIE Theatre) and Jason Southerland (founding artistic director of Boston Theatre Works, who directed the New England premiere of Pulp). They’ve assembled an outstanding ensemble – MOXIE regulars/co-founders Jennifer Eve Thorn, Live Kellgren and Jo Anne Glover, in addition to Terri Park and Jessica John (artistic director of Backyard Productions). They are all stunning and talented. Glover (with her deep, sultry alto) is the only one who can actually sing, but they all know how to put over a song. The songs aren’t the main attraction anyway, though each character has a turn in the spotlight, with lyrics like “I’ve tasted love’s baguette? but you’re my one regret.” Every comical, over-the-top line gets punched (some even get punctuated by comic sound or lighting effects and stop-action freezes). The noir mood is pitch-perfect, thanks to David Weiner’s dark, woody set, replete with jukebox and mirrored bar; Chris Walsh’s moody lighting, Shulamit Nelson’s gorgeous array of period costumes (provocatively sexy or butch) and Missy Bradstreet’s excellent hair and makeup design.
But it’s these wonderful women who make the show soar, who make every line fraught and funny: Park as the macho, gun-toting characters (the Sarge and Winny, short for Winchester), a kind of lost but gentle soul, still trying to prove herself and compete in a man’s world; Thorn hilarious as a pretty, pouty-lipped Monroe-type (Pepper), who loves and quotes (and sometimes resembles) Barbara Stanwyck; Glover delightful as self-assured Terry, the new girl in town (“I’m a lesbian plain and simple. I don’t make any bones about it,” she says repeatedly, till others finally pick up on her theme); Kellgren chic and urbane as elegant, eloquent Viv, who knows French better than she knows herself; and stunning, seductive John as Bing, the tart-tongued femme fatale. Casts don’t get any better (or more beautiful) than this. They keep the laughs coming without over-camping it, and they make this 90 minutes fast and sassy and endlessly amusing.
THE LOCATION: A co-production of MOXIE and Diversionary Theatres, at Diversionary, through June 11.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Best Bet
‘NOT TO BE MISSED!’ (Critic’s Picks)
Pulp – side-splitting spoof of lesbian pulp fiction; terrific ensemble. A MOXIE/Diversionary co-production, at Diversionary Theatre, through June 11
San Diego Union-Tribune
Diversionary’s ‘Pulp’ is juicy
Show tackles ’50s lesbian fiction
By James Hebert
May 15, 2006
“Pulp” puts a fresh squeeze on a vintage pop-cultural genre: The lusty lesbian fiction of the 1950s.
The play, which opened Saturday at Diversionary Theatre, both satirizes and celebrates those lurid novels, which featured titles such as “Women’s Barracks” and “We, Too, Must Love.” The books also sported cover art that would make a Harlequin heroine blush to the approximate shade of her fuchsia bustier.
Co-produced by Diversionary and Moxie Theatre, “Pulp” aims to bring the books’ overheated, noirish feel to life on stage, and it does so as much with style as with story. That’s probably of necessity, since the source material is not exactly known for its complex narratives.
But the emphasis on style presents a problem for “Pulp”: Even for what is basically a send-up, the romantic story lines that keep the play from being just a collection of poses feel sketched in pencil. The way the rest of the show is staged in such bold colors – with saucy, over-the-top language and moments of wry melodrama – tends to underline that thinness of plot.
It doesn’t ruin the play’s campy fun, but it does make the romantic intrigue about the least interesting aspect of the show, since there’s rarely any suspense about where things are going.
One thing is for certain: Patricia Kane, who wrote “Pulp,” is intimate with innuendo. Right from the beginning, when a WAC named Terry (Jo Anne Glover) is talking her sergeant out of her uniform, the dialogue is steeped in wink-wink suggestiveness.
Kane is also good at giving her characters the kind of bluff, tough-minded lines that might have leaped right out of one of the novels.
“I’m a lesbian, plain and simple. I don’t make any bones about it,” is Terry’s credo, repeated several times during the play.
“Pulp” follows Terry as she leaves the Army and wanders into a Chicago bar where the waitresses take the stage and sing dressed as men. She quickly settles into the place, launching a fling with her colleague Bing (Jessica John) and then falling for the elusive owner, Vivian (Liv Kellgren).
While their vocal turns only fitfully evoke the torch-song feel that the staging and mood suggest, the women are all good in their roles. Glover portrays Terry with an almost reckless bravado, while John is a treat as the hot-blooded Bing, and Kellgren is perfectly elegant as the ice queen Viv.
Jennifer Eve Thorn is a natural as Pepper, whose speech is peppered with lines from Barbara Stanwyck movies. (Thorn even resembles Stanwyck.) And as Winny, the winsome Terri Park is the closest thing to wholesome that the play can boast.
The directors, Delicia Turner Sonnenberg and Jason Southerland, make the most of one especially entertaining conceit: Every time someone utters a particularly piquant phrase, the action is frozen and bathed in a white flash, with the actresses taking on suitably histrionic poses.
These fleeting scenes look just like lesbian-pulp cover art made flesh. Picasso it ain’t, but as Terry might say, “Pulp” is a pop bon-bon, and it doesn’t make any bones about it.
Writer: Patricia Kane. Directors: Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, Jason Southerland. Sets: David Weiner. Lighting: Chris Walsh. Costumes: Shulamit Nelson. Sound: Jason Southerland. Cast: Jo Anne Glover, Jessica John, Liv Kellgren, Jennifer Eve Thorn, Terri Park.
7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, plus 7:30 p.m. May 22. Through June 11; Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd., Suite 101, University Heights; $23-$27; (619) 220-0097 or www.diversionary.org
James Hebert: (619) 293-2040; email@example.com
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