After a thwarted attempt over a month ago to snag a precious ticket to Room for Cream, the live lesbian soap opera with a near-cult following, we made sure to reserve our seats well ahead of time for this month’s installment. The brainchild of the Two-Headed Calf’s Dyke Division, Room for Cream is in its third season at the downtown experimental theatre establishment La Mama. Every season is comprised of a series of monthly episodes, keeping the show’s devotees in prolonged, torturous suspense.
Walking in as a newbie in the middle of season three, I had to brush up on the show’s history. I turned to the Room for Cream website and got a crash course on all the scandal, the sex, and the…vampires? Alrighty!
Climbing the steep, narrow stairway to the third floor theatre, we arrived at a room with a cabaret-style set-up. Round café tables were scattered about with a stage at the far end of the room, a white sheet serving as a primitive curtain. We had our sights set on a particularly inviting table, but as began to sit down we were told that it was actually part of the set. Woops. We quickly spotted a fine replacement, scoring a front-row place near the edge of the room. We sat down, absolutely giddy with excitement. As we scoped our surroundings, we spied an open bar near the entrance (NICE!), and my friend purchased refreshments while I guarded the roost, the sold out space filling up quickly.
To be quite frank I had no idea what to expect, but I was ready for anything. And the show was apparently ready for a novice like me too, pulling out all the stops after the prologue with three ripe-aged characters in full frontal, unabashed nudity. I quickly got an idea of what I was in for.
The premise of this episode was that Sappho, the town where this homoerotic soap is cleverly set, needed a new mayor (the former one having been beheaded). The three candidates were to give their speeches at a town meeting in Room for Cream, the local coffee shop. The episode unfolded in a fabulously dramatic manner, spliced with flashbacks that clarified certain awkward or sexually tense moments. For example, if there was a particularly mysterious interaction between two characters on stage, the narrator would pause the episode and declare a precursory “But before this all happened…”, building tantalizing suspense as the lights changed. The characters would then reenact the gasp-inducing moment at the source of their current situation.
As far as fine theatre goes, I do not see this show winning momentous awards any time soon. However, it was a refreshing reminder of an often-sacrificed concept in theatre: play. The performers were clearly having a fabulous time, and their pure joy permeated the audience; we were right there with them, through the flubbed lines and technical glitches, gasping at shocking moments, cheering at exciting ones. The best part of it was that we got to play with them, even casting our votes for the next mayor.
I have to say, the show’s cheesiness was geniusly crafted. I feel that in order for a corny melodrama to really work, there has to be talent at the root of it—you have to actually be “good” to successfully play “bad.” And this worked. Not only did it poke fun at daytime drama, but it also satirized relevant social and political issues, especially surrounding the gay community. It even spoofed the current eco-craze, as the local sex shop Progressive Pussies received New York Times-level recognition after “going green.” And though I am usually not amused by vulgar humor, which all-too-frequently serves no purpose other than shock value, I found that this show was clever in its obscenity. The narrator would dictate the steamy, graphic sex scenes, his words reminiscent of a deliciously trashy romance novel, which was just indulgent enough for a live audience. The actors would remain standing, acting out their sexual ecstasy without enacting the narrator’s words, leaving just enough for the imagination. It was smart, raunchy comedy. And it was fantastic.
Room for Cream was definitely worth the month-long wait, my only complaint being that I can’t catch the past seasons on hulu. I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself buying a season pass for next year–as with any good soap opera, I’m one episode in and I’m hooked.