KPBS AIRDATE: March 18, 1992
You don’t have to be a lesbian to live on San Francisco ‘s Dolores Street , but it probably helps. And you don’t have to be gay or lesbian to laugh at the play of the same name, but that probably helps, too. However, if you’ve had a roommate, or a relationship, you can probably find something to identify with here.
The funny premise of the play — at least in its billing — is a quartet of roommates who write a communal personal ad and invite the respondents to dinner. But that event is, unfortunately, backgrounded. Instead, up front — or downstage — there’s an awful lot of talk. About the trials and tribulations of San Francisco , lesbianism, sex, love and commitment. A lot of talk and not much action.
When Lonnie, convincingly played by Paty Sipes, comes downstage at the outset to introduce herself, she says there are two terms we need to know: “communal space” and “process.” The latter, she says, is a way of coming to terms with your issues.
This play is pure process. Each character gets to start a scene by standing alone onstage and telling her story. When the others come on, after a shaky, uncertain round of missed or erroneous lighting cues, the four protagonists pour forth all their issues, and all their cohabitation concerns. “Adults were not meant to live together,” says Lonnie later in the play, just before she decides to move out.
That’s one of the main events of the piece, in addition to the aforementioned dinner, which gets very short shrift, and a brief encounter between Lonnie and 19 year-old roommate Wendy, played by a cutely butch Kim Michaels. Now this is a serious violation of any communal living arrangement: No sleeping with the person in the next room. Like all the other problems here, it requires a group meeting. Both Gayle Feldman, as the neurotic Fran, and Leeanne Hill, as the compulsive Danielle, become apoplectic. But nothing transpires that makes us really care for any of these characters. We forget them as soon as they walk offstage. Sometimes, as in the case of Danielle’s tales of jelly donuts, we forget them while they’re still talking.
Playwright Therea Carilli has obviously had a few failed relationships and rooming arrangements of her own. But most of her writing takes itself too seriously, and some of her dialogue is downright unreal.
Every scene ends with an uncomfortable freeze following some trite, pithy one-liner like “Make sure your next lover is a friend.” Director Lois Miller has a few ideas that work, but she tends to use them over and over. And these poor women are trapped in Linda Gilbreath’s dull set, a washed out, yellow and green kitchen. They’re doing everything they can to make us believe their non-charismatic characters and their flimsy story.
There just isn’t enough here for a play, let alone for two hours. If you know very little about the lesbian world — or very much — you’ll probably get a kick out of ” Dolores Street .” But if you’re somewhere in the middle, it’s a pretty long evening between laughs.
I’m Pat Launer, for KPBS radio.
©1992 Patté Productions Inc.