'Lips Together, Teeth Apart'

The New York Times called it "a comedy that hurts." But "Lips Together, Teeth Apart" by Terrence McNally - the most recent production from The Dakota Organization - does a lot more than that. It makes you laugh, cry (if you're a sap like me), want to yell at the characters, but most of all, it makes you think.

"Lips Together" ran from July 15-17 at the CVIC Hall and performed four shows, which is an unfortunately short time for such a powerful show. The set was incredible; built to be the deck of a beach house facing the ocean, it featured a real mini swimming pool and a working shower. The set never changed but good use of lighting and sound set the tone for each different scene.

The cast consisted of only four characters, two men and two women, but between the four of them there are enough personal issues and trauma to account for an entire family. The story line revolves around Sally (played by Teri Lynn) who recently inherited a beautiful beach house from her brother who died from AIDS. Sally and her husband Sam (Rod Hearn) host Sam's sister and her husband, John (Dave Anderson) and Chloe (Julie Franklin) for the weekend to celebrate the Fourth of July. However, the holiday is far from enjoyable.

Each person has an issue he or she is struggling with; Sally is trying to figure out how to tell her husband she is pregnant again after already having several miscarriages, as well as dealing with the unspoken truth about the death of her brother, and Lynn portrayed Sally's loneliness with honest emotion that never became redundant. Sam knows Sally has slept with his sister's husband and just wants the truth, as well as admitting to himself that he is terrified of being a father, and Hearn's portrayal was so real and understanding that you felt most sympathetic towards him throughout the play. Chloe, who at first meet is a hyper musical-theater obsessed housewife, reveals that she keeps things light and simple because dwelling on the tragedy of every day life is too hard to bare. Franklin delivered a monologue defending her personality that was so true and heartbreaking and it made one reconsider all stereotypes for those who appear simple and shallow at first impression. The character of John was the most difficult to read; secretly dealing with cancer, he pushes his desire for Sally away, and tries to appreciate his wife who he emotionally mistreats. Anderson's John seems rather emotionless at first but when he finally opens up you could see the extreme progress of his character's personality unfold with each event. The chemistry between the actors was so believable that you almost forgot that they weren't really spouses or siblings or adults trying to hide their infidelity.

And finally, something risqué in the developing arts world of Carson Valley. "Lips Together" was written in 1991 and is best known for it's topic of homosexuality, which was a hush-hush subject in the early 1990's and is a touchy subject today as well. The play tackles the topic in an extremely believable way, in the sense that the characters are torn between acceptance and fear of the unknown. A common theme of water runs throughout the play - the characters fear the beautiful swimming pool because of the possibility that the water is infected with AIDS, and Sally is devastated when she is unable to save a swimmer who swam out to sea and drowned.

However, the play was not all heartbreaking tragedy. Comedic relief came at all the right times to lighten the mood, and the jokes were tasteful while at the same time being slightly adult. The actors were all versatile enough that they could be both believably dramatic at times and funny at others. The things that were the most humorous were usually the things that everyone could relate to; marriage, children, sex, money, family.

"Lips Together, Teeth Apart" defied all expectations of community theater. Director Daniel Rosenblatt, executive director for The Lear Theater in Reno, did a wonderful job in keeping the pace of the show quick without becoming hurried. Producer was Diana R. Jones, who is new to the Carson Valley but has had previous producing experience in California.

A portion of the proceeds was donated to the Alzheimer's Association. Keep your eyes and ears open for the next production from the Dakota Organization.


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