ELIOT & ESTLIN
nytheatre.com review by Andrea Lepcio
Eliot & Estlin is part of my blackout story as I was originally
scheduled to see it on that famous Thursday night. To an extent, the
play is about missed connections, about people operating in the dark. In
other words, it’s about young love and novice lesbians.
August 15, 2003
Set on a train ride to New York, two friends have brought along their current lovers. While all four are played by female actors, one is portraying a man. Although I read this in the program note, it was not clear in performance. The three characters that wear pants all have a similar degree of androgyny in their appearance. Names are similarly male or androgynous—in fact some characters have more than one name. As a result, I watched the play assuming all four characters were lesbian. And I was never quite sure of the sex of the off-stage characters. So when Richard betrays Estlin, I had no idea if she was really a woman who had slept with another woman or another man, or if he was really a man who had slept with a man.
There’s a stiff, synthetic quality to the writing and the acting that may be a deliberate choice of both playwright Olivia Kienzel and director Rebecca Longworth. Eliot (Holly Sheppard) and Estlin (Cheri Mims), both budding actors, tend to put on airs and Noah (Aransas Thomas) plays at being a femme fatale. Richard (Aubyn Philabaum) is the only character who speaks simply. The youthful banter gets stale before the conflict takes off. As Eliot and Estlin get close to getting what they want and Richard gets closer to losing, the artifice in language and performance continued keeping me at a distance and unmoved.
All that said, it is fun watching girls kiss on stage (which they do plenty). Hell, it’s fun to watch anyone kiss on stage. And the sexual merry-go-round is a contemporary rite of passage—particularly for BDOCs (Big Dykes on Campus) and LTGs (Lesbians Till Graduation) alike. Kienzel captures how attractions in one’s college years can interlock amongst a group of friends. Kudos to the collaborators for putting lesbians on stage.