Reviewed by Amy M. Frateo
OK, so I hear you. An accidentally Lesbian heavy dinner in the middle of nowhere turns out to be the epicenter of the planet allowing it to travel back in time 65 million years with its Sapphic denizens in tow where they battle dinosaurs and fall in love, should be relegated to a progressive channel’ss Saturday morning cartoon hour.
Always Plenty of Light at the Starlight All Night Diner by Darcy Parker Bruce and directed by J. Mehr Kaur, a wacky entry at this year’s Fresh Fruit Festival, is a deeply moving, funny piece using the most unlikely of parables to show us real love and what it takes to get it.
We start with SAM, a gay James Dean type – sorry – a lesbian James Dean type has a serious crush on Jessa, the sweet, naïve, with-child waitress of the Starlight, who’s married to an abusive husband. Jessa has feelings for Sam that she doesn’t really understand … yet. There’s one romance, now we meet the doctor and his companion (sound familiar?) A nutty professor and his also-lesbian assistant (thus their romance can only be greatly insinuated).
These four hapless souls are caught in a time vortex that sends them to the age of the dinosaurs The doctor is ecstatic, his young assistant is also bubbling over with happiness, and Sam and Jessa are in shock.
When you look at it this way, it’s the first season of BBC’s Doctor Who. When you listen to Bruce’s delicate words performed with heart by this fine ensemble cast, you see another play. As truths come out and relationships start to [pardon the pun] evolve, you are part of a sweet romantic piece about the obstacles that stand in the way of love.
Lena Wilson was pure joy as the tough handywoman of the Starlight, mixing boyish innocence at her feeling for Jenna with that forced bravado that filled every 50s youth film. Sioghan McMannamon was really excellent as the embattled and very pregnant waitress. Creating believability in her fantastic situation, she gave us a very real showing. Michael Vernon Davis’ Doctor borrowed lots of Vaudeville takes and facial expressions and wild deliveries from the myriad mad scientists that have come before him to provide us with comic relief and Jaime Rossow weathered well in a part that was some moments comic relief and other moments deep sadness. The simple set and outlandish dinosaur noises worked because we love things like that.
Bruce’s subplot was great on its own and would have been more palpable with a little rationing of the sci-fi part to make this a finished work but J. Mehr Kaur’s fine staging made it all move nicely, even some very farce-like use of entrances and exits.
It might sound silly but it’s great to see gay people in sci fi. It creates an accessible “universal translator” for emotions and relationships, and for that, Starlight was a winner.