Savage Umbrella is a theater company revered for the scrupulous research of historical productions. Though they’re not taking us to ancient Greece this time around, they definitely transport us once again. This time, the destination is the lesbian underworld of an American metropolis in the 1950s, years before Stonewall; a time when lesbian bars were targeted by police raids and when Joseph McCarthy’s anticommunist witch hunt triggered fears in much the same way Islamophobia has simmered in the post-9/11 era and homophobia did in the AIDS crisis hysteria of the Reagan years.
Director and Concept Captain Hannah K. Holman has steered a wrenching vision of butch and femme women whose intimate lives unfold before us in a tucked away 1950s lesbian bar. Emily Dussault beguiles with her own lovely original music as the tavern singer. Allison Witham and Meagan Kedrowski give memorable performances as two platonic butch friends. Kathryn Fumie is poignant as a woman driven to drink. Like all the play’s characters, her options are horrendously limited. Leslie Vincent endears as June, an innocent young woman open to life in a time and place that seems bent on squelching human freedom and goodness.
The entire ensemble is simply superb as they vividly embody the physical and psychic types of queer women quite particular to the 1950s when the terms “lesbian” and “homosexual” were unmentionable. The self-monitoring of an oppressed class of people is viscerally rendered by everyone. We can literally feel the oppressiveness of time. There’s something miraculous in this achievement on stage. Laura Leffler-McCabe, Hope Nordquist, and Marika Proctor add dreamy support. Alana Horton’s percussion and KT Thompson’s piano perfectly suit the atmosphere.
Through Feb. 26
Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave., Minneapolis