By Angeline Acain
The night my partner and I went to see Lesbian Love Octagon (LLO) there was a torrential downpour. As we navigated our way soaked to the skin through the East Village to the Kraine Theater (New York City), I knew this performance was going to be worth the drenching – and I was right. Created by Kim Kressal and Will Larche, Lesbian Love Octagon is a musical comedy about dyke drama – that’s right, a musical, about the lesbian culture of ex lovers. So I knew this would be a fun and entertaining night. Kressal and Larche wrote the lyrics and music and it is first rate. Not that LLO can be compared to other lesbian musicals – because there isn’t any other. This is a one of a kind production, done brilliantly.
The story revolves around Sue (played by lesbian actress Caitlin Lee Reid) who is dumped by Darla (played by Kristian Espiritu) who is now with Sue’s ex who is now a trans named Jerry (played by transgender actor Jax Jackson). Other lesbians and their ex’s are involved, at least five more main characters, hence the octagon. The setting is East Village 1990s, feminist bookstore, food co-op, bar, sex shop, and bedroom and lesbian characters range from bisexual to transgender and everything in between. Kressal told AfterEllen, “Beyond this just being a lesbian love story, it’s about community and lesbian identity. I think that the late ’90s were a time when your visibility as a lesbian was very important. I mean, yes Ellen had come out, but that’s where we were. This was pre-The L Word, the height of third wave feminism. The show takes place in the Lower East Side and at that time, Babeland, Meow Mix and Bluestockings had all just opened. So this area had become the center of the (lesbian) universe… All of this is to say that I think the late ’90s is the right kindling to ignite a story about lesbian identity and uncertainty, but I think the story itself is timeless.”
LLO debuted in 2010 and Horse Trade, the management company that runs the Kraine Theatre invited LLO for another run and is co-producer. Regarding lesbian visibility in musical theater Kressal told AfterEllen, “…this is missing from musical theatre. But, the deeper we have gotten into this project that has become a much bigger deal to us. We have had commercial interest in the show, but with the exception of Horse Trade, everyone has wanted us to take out some lesbians. Make it less lesbian. Can’t there be straight characters in this? Can you take lesbian out of the title? And those are the things that we are unwilling to bend on, because then what’s the point. It just becomes another musical. We are willing to not make it to Broadway or off-Broadway, because of our unwillingness to bend our belief that trans stories, lesbian stories, need to be told in musical theatre. This is our life. This is our reality.”
Included in lesbian reality is the use of vibrators and LLO audience members can purchase raffle tickets to win a Hitachi Magic Wand. So during intermission it was entertaining to watch a lucky gal win her wand. Another part of LLO fun is featuring a special guest star in each performance and TONY nominee Jan Maxwell joined the production that night. Lindsay Nass who plays Wendy, Sue’s best friend, is another out lesbian actress in this performance. Naas told AfterEllen, “Everyone should see the Lesbian Love Octagon, regardless of your sexual orientation, gender, or age. Lesbians should see it because it is a beautiful and honest representation of their community in a brilliant form of entertainment. They’ll get all the little inside jokes and will undoubtedly relate to at least one of the characters. It’s really a magical thing, realizing that a group of people that have been pretty much left out of the entertainment world get to see themselves being brought to life onstage. Straight people should see it because of those exact same reasons.”
I was told Kressal and her wife are in the process of becoming parents, this is apparent in LLO’s ending and of course it is an ending with a lot of song and dance.
Lesbian Love Octagon is playing at the Kraine Theater until June 29, 2013. See a video, hear great music, join their community and buy your tickets at www.lesbianthemusical.com.
Photos by KL Thomas