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Brandon Judell

"Lesbian Love Octagon" delivers frank humor and fun music

Lesbian Love Octagon
Book and Lyrics by Kim Kressal; Music & Additional Lyrics by Will Larche; directed by Kim Kressal;
choreography by Felicia Blum and Kim Kressal.
The Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street, New York City.
212-239-6200 or 800-447-7400. http://www.horsetrade.info
Opened June 5, 2013; closes June 29, 2013.
Reviewed by Brandon Judell June 8, 2013.

The full cast of "Lesbian Love Octagon" performing at The Kraine Theater. Photo by KL Thomas.
For the most compelling bang for your buck, look no further than The Kraine Theater where currently the all-dancin’, all-singin’, all-dykin’ musical bonanza, “Lesbian Love Octagon,” is playing to standing ovations, immeasurable laughter, and the head-shaking contemplation of “Why hasn’t this
been done before?”

If I overestimate this little show with its hugely talented cast, glorious tunes, tongue-in-cheek high-stepping choreography, plus its blatantly honest look at lesbian mating rituals during a sweltering New York summer in the late ‘90s —and I don’t believe I am exaggerating—forgive me. I might not be mentally able to handle this much joy in one evening without bursting out the buoyant adjectives.

Directed with whiplash pacing by writer/lyricist/co-choreographer Kim Kressal, the tale revolves around poor Sue (Caitlin Lee Reid), an attractive, young, less-than butch Sapphic romantic who’s just been dumped by her girlfriend Darla (Kristian Espiritu), a grad student in Gender Studies, who’s hitched herself up to Jerry (Jax Jackson), her female-to-male trans boyfriend, in order to come off as trés au courant.

With the action maneuvering from the Wimmin’s Bookstore (“Who mixed the Kathy Acker in with the Gertrude Stein?”) to a lesbian bar and café, with several stops at The Sex Shop, every girl-on-girl stereotype is deliciously paraded about, including the fact that almost everyone on stage has either slept with, loved, dumped, or will soon dump everyone else on stage while drinking soy chai lattes. And now that Sue is a free agent once again, admittedly against her will, all the ladies want to be on her dance card. But Sue wants love, and she refuses at least for a while to become a cliché to satisfy others’ needs.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the scene stealers are all in the supporting cast. The truly hilarious Jenny Atwood portrays the svelte Anya, a very tall, “high femme dyke” in a dress, who is a bit contemptuous of monogamy. If you could have your druthers, she’d never leave the stage. Also, deliriously fine are Lindsay Naas as Wendy, Sue’s best friend who doesn’t realize she’s really in love with her lover, Jess (Tara “Ti” Grieco), a languishing butch. As for Ms. Grieco, who knows how to milk a tune, she has several songs to prove that ability. But to limit mentions seems harsh when even ensemble members, such as Bernadette Marshman and Lauren Sapienza, memorably get to shine.

But without the music what a musical be? Here, with brief moments seemingly paying homage to William Finn, Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Kurt Weill, and “Hair,” Will Larche’s winning tunes and Kressal’s wise lyrics make “Lesbian Love Octagon” a must see, one that with a little polishing deserves to be transferred off-Broadway where it will no doubt have an exceedingly long run.


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