While I doubt any comedy will ever get quite as close to my heart as darker material tends to, there’s also really no bad time to take a visit to one. Theatre, after all, is as much escapism as it is anything else, and the breakneck pace, too-perfect coincidences, and fast-paced dialogue of well-done humorous farces like Lipstick, which finishes its run this upcoming weekend, often constitute a perfect evasion from every day.
Produced as it was by LGBTQ-focused theatre company Island City Stage, it’s no surprise that Lipstick was distinguished from its farcy predecessors by its raunchy plot and array of LGBT characters. Jodi Dellaventura provided a detailed and realistic apartment set, strong enough to stand up to the play’s wide variety of theatrical antics.
Actress Vanessa Elise served as the good-hearted center of the show, the (relatively) down-to-earth Anna, while Corey Rose appeared as her more flamboyant best friend Mal. Their grounded friendship and consistent characterization were key to our investment in the story, laying a good foundation for the play’s zanier moments.
Other major players included Rachel Gil de Gibaja as Cara, Anna’s somewhat unhinged ex, and Abby Nigro as Kelly, the sexually confused yoga class pal Anna invites over for what she optimistically hopes is a date. Gibaja brought a comic intensity to her role, though if anything she could have been more out there to suit such an extreme plot and her character’s unusual behavior: namely, running away from her own wedding in an attempt to win Anna back.
Meanwhile, Nigro brought the right mix of appealing innocence and sensuality to justify her status as the apple of Anna’s eye. Apart from Nigro’s winning coquettishness, I also have to give credit to the costume department for her stylish and ambiguously gay look.
In a not-entirely-psychologically realistic twist, Nigro’s character’s confusion and repression regarding her sexuality were revealed to stem mostly from conflict over her vanished father, who had his own outstanding sexual issues.
Though I admit to initially rooting for Gibaja’s character to pull off a romantic win, (nothing gets to me like the rekindling of a lost love…) Anna and Kelly’s chemistry eventually won me over to their side, and the pair’s sweetness and genuine affection for each other came through even within the play’s bawdy setting.
Dean Nigro, Peter Bisuito, and Christina Alexander also nailed their smaller roles, with special props to Nigro for pulling off an impressive array of costume and character changes. Plotwise, though, the ultimate revelation of the identity of Bishuito’s character, Hank the handyman struck me as a little too convenient and too out-there, even for a farce, or maybe it just could have stood to be a little more directly foreshadowed. Or maybe I could stand to get a little more used to the absurd, at least when attending a play like Lipstick!