Joshua Conkel's fowl-minded comedy has a gay time.
Tue Sep 22 2009
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
You would be forgiven if you react badly to hearing that Joshua Conkel’s bawdy comedy MilkMilkLemonade features multiple dance breaks, a talking chicken, sexually active gay fifth-graders and an extended Tennessee Williams spoof. You would be within your rights to roll your eyes, bemoan the rampant quirkiness of today’s young writers and dismiss the whole dirty doodle as camp: fine for some, but certainly not for the serious theatergoer. You would have sanctimony on your side, but you would also be as wrong as a beakless chicken.
Conkel’s rib-tickler—unfolding on a kindergarten-bright-cardboard poultry farm—knows just how to play with two-dimensionality (a recurring joke is how bad the jokes are) and how to melt our resistance to its filthiness. Despite our best impulses, we find ourselves rooting for nasty neighborhood kid Eliot (Jess Barbagallo) even as he sexually harasses our fey hero, Emory (Andy Phelan). Will Emory get on the talent show Reach for the Stars? Will he defeat his emphysemic, fowlcidal grandmother (a fearless Michael Cyril Creighton) and save the clucker he loves best? We haven’t the breath to worry. By the time the Lady in the Leotard (Nikole Beckwith)—part Our Town stage manager, part parasitic twin—turns herself into a poultry processor, you’ll be so busy apologizing to your neighbor for smacking him during a giggle fit that you’ll be past caring. Conkel and director Isaac Butler are unafraid to go for the belly: They want you laughing, nauseated or both. It’s proof of how desperately comedy needs audacity: Here, as on your average chicken farm, only the plucky survive.—Helen Shaw