I didn’t exactly lose any sleep over it, but I did feel somewhat guilty for ignoring the many lesbian-centric offerings at August’s Fringe Festival in last month’s column in order to focus on drag spoofs and shirtless boys. So I tried my best to make it up to the ladies by seeking out as many lesbian themes and actresses as I could find. Conveniently, off-Broadway was practically boiling over with broads who do broads.
First, I schlepped down to the Lower East Side to see an insanely enjoyable musical about notorious spinster Lizzie Borden. Part drawing-room period drama and part Spring Awakening–inspired rock concert, Lizzie Borden is splitting heads at the Living Theatre until October 17. The low-budget yet surprisingly high-quality show not only assumes Lizzie’s blood-splattering guilt on that fateful 1892 summer day but suggests that Alice Russell, the neighbor whom Lizzie “always received upstairs,” according to her murder trial testimony, was her secret lesbian lover. “Well, you know the old song,” whispered one catty gay man to another during intermission. “Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, she put on her flannel shirt and went golfing.”
Killers and Other Family, out playwright Lucy Thurber’s taut and terrific thriller at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, will also terrorize audiences through October 17. No relation to Miss Borden yet just as troubled a protagonist, young Lizzie’s Whole Foods-y Manhattan life is disrupted when her brother Jeff and his volatile pal Danny -- running from the law after Danny “accidentally” killed a girl in their rural Massachusetts hometown -- show up uninvited on her doorstep. Lizzie, whom Danny seduced when she was far too young, soon succumbs to his carnal charms once again, so it’s quite shocking when we learn that she’s now in a serious lesbian relationship. Once her clueless girlfriend Claire returns home, an awkward dinner quickly turns into a violent power struggle when Lizzie is forced to choose between the sweet comfort of Claire and the sexy danger of the menacing hunk threatening to kill her.