Pete Ploszek and Roger Q. Mason in Lavender Men. Photo by Jenny Graham.
A good imagination can be a best friend. As a response to bullying and despair, imagination can offer an escape of fulfillment and joy. In Lavender Men, produced by Playwrights’ Arena and Skylight Theatre Company, now playing at the Skylight Theatre. Tafetta (writer-performer Roger Q. Mason), creates what she calls a “fantasia” using history to heal.
And Taffeta needs some healing. Her self-image leans toward “fat bitch” rather than fabulous. The voices in her head, which the audience hears too, recur. Taffeta feels invisible. And in a glorious set by Stephen Gifford, she tries on different roles, often reinforced by spotlighted portraits on the decorated walls.
Tafetta spins her “fantasia” of Abraham Lincoln’s relationship with Colonel Elmer Ellsworth. She is a participant in the story, as a slave, Miss Sadie, as Mary Todd Lincoln, even a tree. She witnesses private moments between Lincoln and Ellsworth and adds her unique perspective.
Ellsworth was indeed Lincoln’s real-life intimate friend and a trusted advisor. Mason’s accurate historical context helps Lavender Men balance the realism part of the play’s magical realism—even though the relationship between the two men surely goes beyond reality.
Lavender Men‘s program sets the tone for letting go and enjoying the ride. The play takes place Now/the 1860s/Never (“It is only a story). The place? “Everywhere you are and all the places you have yet to see. Honey, it’s a fantasia.”
The play is a tight 100 minutes without intermission, under the direction of Lovell Holder. The fantastic and all too real collide in unique and sometimes thrilling ways, as Taffeta journeys from downtrodden to supreme. The standing ovation at the end proves the audience was with her all along.
Lavender Men runs through Sept. 4 at Skylight Theatre, 1816½ N. Vermont Ave. Show times are Saturdays and 8:00pm, Sundays at 3:00pm and Mondays at 7:30pm. Tickets are $42. Vaccination and masking is required. Online streaming will be available for at-home-viewers beginning August 20.
About Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Neo Ensemble Theatre in Hollywood.
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