Different Strokes! stages ‘5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche’

HARD-BOILED: Egg reigns supreme in Different Strokes’ performance of 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche. At face value, the absurd comedy is just about five ladies noshing on French pastries, says director Steph Hickling Beckham. But dig a little deeper, and the innuendos and thoughtful takeaways abound. Pictured, from left, are Tracey Johnston-Crum, Carrie Kimbrell Kimzey, Delina Hensley, Naomi Ansano and Kim Richardson.​
HARD-BOILED: Egg reigns supreme in Different Strokes’ performance of 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche. At face value, the absurd comedy is just about five ladies noshing on French pastries, says director Steph Hickling Beckham. But dig a little deeper, and the innuendos and thoughtful takeaways abound. Pictured, from left, are Tracey Johnston-Crum, Carrie Kimbrell Kimzey, Delina Hensley, Naomi Ansano and Kim Richardson.​ Photo by Sean David Robinson

Attention all breakfast lovers: Here’s your official warning. 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche will forever change how that eggy, toothsome goodness sits on your palate.

Because, as Different Strokes! Performing Arts Collective founder and director Steph Hickling Beckman makes known, “quiche is a euphemism.” For down there. Thanks to playwrights Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood, the French torte joins a gaggle of food-related genteelisms (or genital-isms). That much becomes apparent when actors gather around a table, arguing over the best technique by which to eat a quiche. “There’s lots of moaning,” says Beckman.

So, hold onto your tacos and buttered biscuits. The production 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, opening Thursday, June 15, at the BeBe Theatre, is going to be a raunchy ride.

When the play begins, we find ourselves in a church basement that doubles as a fallout shelter. It’s 1956, and communism is shaking America to the core. But even Cuban nationalism can’t deep-six the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein’s annual quiche breakfast. Despite the strained political climate, self-proclaimed “widows” Lulie Stanwyck (Delina Hensley), Wren Robin (Tracey Johnston-Crum), Ginny Cadbury (Carrie Kimzey), Dale Prist (Naomi Ansano) and Veronica “Vern” Schultz (Kim Richardson) flit around stage crooning about winning recipes.

Through their back-and-forth, the audience learns of Lady Monmont. An avid homesteader and all-around badass, she’s a fictitious idol for any strong, independent female. Her backstory also explains why the women are cooking up quiche and not pancakes or scones. While traversing wild terrain years back, Lady Monmont found a random colony of hens pecking around and, seeing eggs as a food source, founded a village. The widows now follow in her footsteps, bonding over yolky pies and feminist ideals.

They’ve even concocted a maxim: “No men, no meat, all manners,” which means absolutely no member of the society is to put sausage in their tartlets. If that innuendo flew over your head, don’t worry. Everything is spelled out when communists drop an atomic bomb — a plot twist foreshadowed by early talk of Soviet invasion — and the pressure cooker of a situation forces the women to accept reality.

“They come out,” says Beckman. Confined in what Vern calls the “safest place in America,” the widows admit repressed truths. For one, they aren’t actual widows. In fact, they’ve never even been hitched. “They call themselves that because it’s safer than saying, ‘I’m single,’” Beckman explains. Or worse yet, “I’m a 35-year-old unmarried woman who drives a Subaru.”

So, it’s obvious. The five lesbians are, well, lesbians. But just for good measure, they shout it from the rooftops … or dingy basement. The audience gets involved, too. No matter their sexuality, men and women will be shouting, “I am a lesbian!” by the night’s end.

The play is sheer hilarity, says Johnston-Crum. A Different Strokes veteran, the local actress describes 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche as “a complete escape. It’s light and fun, and not heavy-handed on the moral compass.”

That’s unusual for Different Strokes. The troupe typically performs the antithesis of comedy: sobering dramas that tackle issues like hate crimes and domestic violence. Though dense, those productions attract a full, if not overflowing, house. That’s part of the problem, says Beckman.

Since its inception in 2010, Different Strokes has outgrown the BeBe Theatre. A recent capital campaign afforded a new space on the South Slope, but Beckman lacks a few necessities such as chairs, lighting, curtains. Still, it’s a far cry from the BeBe. Though Different Strokes will open with 65-70 seats and grow from there, the venue is capable of seating 120 (nearly triple the BeBe’s capacity). Beckman is planning to sign a 10- to 15-year lease, contingent on a little sweat equity and approval from the city of Asheville.

So 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche anchors a “FUNraiser” designed to bring the South Slope theater to working order. That benefit show — on Saturday, June 17, at 5:30 p.m. — will include casino tables and caricature drawing. With complimentary spirits, the night is sure to be filled with savory and saucy fun. Oh, and quiche, too.

“Asheville audiences love to laugh, and they love lesbians,” says Beckman. “Here, they get to laugh along with lesbians. What could be better?”

WHAT: 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche
WHERE: The BeBe Theatre, 20 Commerce St., differentstrokespac.org
WHEN: Thursday, June 15, to Sunday, July 2. Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. $15-$21. Tickets to the FUNraiser are $40 and include admission to that night’s performance.

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About Lauren Stepp
Lauren Stepp is an award-winning writer with bylines here in these mountains and out yonder, too.

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