“The Beebo Brinker Chronicles” never attains the good, ol’, lurid trashiness of the lesbian-themed pulp novels by author Ann Bannon that inspired the play.
That’s a shame, because most of the cast seems up to the job of having some sensationalized, soap-operatic fun with the script produced by Kutumba Theatre Project at the Galleria Studio Theatre in the Galleria mall.
Director Kim Ehly does her best to draw out some sort of mob-versus-snob appeal, mashing up theatuh effects (such as period-perfect costumes and wry, witty pop songs bridging scenes together) with cheesy noir narration right out of Raymond Chandler. But the required melodrama to support it all just isn’t there in the writing.
“Beebo Brinker” tells the story of three lesbians trying to find some firm ground in the pre-Stonewall 1950s and early 1960s. Laura (Blaze Powers) leaves her sorority sister and secret lover, Beth (Sandi M. Stock), at the train station. Laura is heading to Greenwich Village, while Beth has decided at the last minute to stay in suburban California and marry her boyfriend, Charlie (Rayner G. Garranchan).
In New York’s gay bar scene, Laura is quickly taken under the protective wing of Jack (Matt Stabile) and enters into a relationship with butch Beebo Brinker (Niki Fridh). The immediate problem is that Laura has a crush on her straight roommate, Marcie (Christina Groom). The next problem is that Beth is bored with Charlie and desperate to dump him and her two children in a last-chance gamble for love.
The overriding problem is that the love that dare not speak its name never stops talking, going back and forth, back and forth over the same territory, switching tones and textures for 90 minutes with a 15-minute intermission. There are halfhearted stabs at profundity, but they barely break the skin.
Fridh and Groom (who totally nails two other roles) seem to vibrate in the same frequency as, say, a lush Douglas Sirk movie, which may have been the intent here, with the genre’s snappy dialogue, bitchy humor, hot breath, parted lips, heaving breasts and furtive gropes. When Fridh and Groom are the center of the action, the play seems to slip into sharp focus. When they are not, it’s harder to see not only where “Beebo Brinker” is going, but why.
IF YOU GO
The Beebo Brinker Chronicles
When: Through Sept. 29; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Galleria Studio Theatre, the Galleria at Fort Lauderdale, 2542B E. Sunrise Blvd.
Contact: 954-646-1000 or BrownPaperTickets.com