Tiny Engine Theatre Company
@ Common Ground Theatre
4815B Hillsborough Road, Durham
Through Aug. 2

Ah, quiche. How did you become our most sexually suggestive dish? Was it when chef James Beard, who claimed to have introduced you to America, called you “infinitely accommodating”?

Or when humorist Bruce Feirstein’s 1982 bestseller asserted that real men never eat you? Did food writer Michael Ruhlman help matters in 2009, praising you as “voluptuous” and “the world’s sexiest pie?”

For that matter, why are all these men so hung up on a dish associated, through high pop culture and the basest slang, with women?

We could also ask that of Chicago theatricals Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood, who first dreamed up Tiny Engine Theatre Company’s latest offering as a comedic 10-minute play in 2010, later filling it out into a modest, hour-long one-act for the New York Fringe Festival.

This light, frothy and campy sex farce trades on variations of the double entendre found in its title as it sends up a bevy of retro lesbian stereotypes. Director Paul Sapp coaxes vivid work from the quintet on stage. Actor Laurel Ullman finds the Barbara Stanwyck notes in club president Lulie. Pimpila Violette covers the fashion beat as Dale. Liz Webb brings unquestionable authority to the petite but domineering Vern.

I dare you not to laughor cringewhen Noelle Barnard Azarelo operatically simpers and coos as the terminally cute Wren. And as Ginny, actor Erica Heilmann ultimately takes the term “food porn” to the next level.

But among the lowbrow sexual innuendo, unexpected moments still give a catch in the throat. When an atomic blast turns the 1956 gathering of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein into the last outpost of civilization, a tug-of-war of sorts ensues. Some take the opportunity to de-closet themselves immediately, while others remain fearful to do so. In that detail, this supremely silly offering still manages to keep faith with the reality American lesbians faced at mid-century.

True, in the face of the nuclear threat, the group still mostly clings to the domestic engineering of the 1950s as the ultimate expression of wholesome womanhood. And their naiveté about the future is played for laughs. When contemplating that the all-clear will sound some four years off, one character gleefully predicts, “It’ll be 1960! We can get married if we want to!”

Mm, not quite. Still, the optimism and generosity of this quintet leaves us pretty certain that civilization is in good hands. Catch the show this weekend or in an encore presentation at the Carolina Theatre, during the NC Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 19.

This article appeared in print with the headline “Tongue in quiche”