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June And Nancy – Love At Any Cost (Fringe Festival 2012)

by Karen Tortora-Lee on August 21, 2012

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It’s 1958 and June’s life is complicated.  Not life-or-death complicated … certainly when it comes to all the basic necessities she seems covered.  At a glance, one might even say June’s life is perfect: she has a likable husband, Marty who has a good job which provides enough money for them to live well.  June certainly dresses nicely, outfitted in a fine array of fashionable dresses which set off her lovely figure and elegant air.  And she’s blessed with the flexibility to spend her days as she wishes – so she’s either shopping or volunteering as a docent at the art museum where she explains the Pollaks and the Dalis to the ladies who lunch.  So what … if, when she and Marty go out with other couples, she drinks a little too much scotch?  So what if her dream of being a painter was shut down by her loving husband who waved it away, dismissing it as a little hobby simply because none of her work sold?  So what if miscarriage after miscarriage only magnifies the emptiness of their home?  So what if their sex life is lacking, their conversations are strained, and the balanced of power is forever tipped in Marty’s favor? So what, indeed.

June and Nancy written by Michelle Ramoni tells of a time when women and their sexuality was a mystery — often to themselves.  Sex of any kind wasn’t discussed, so when marital discourse rears its ugly head for June (Ramoni) there’s not much to do about it except look on the bright side, slip into those heels and go shopping. While Marty isn’t a particularly dominating man he does what other men of the era do – he makes the money and expects his wife to look and act appropriately.  While he sets very few limits on her, the limits he does set echo those of society which are enough to keep her corralled in her place.  So when June meets Nancy (Gabrielle Maisels) - a lithographer who speaks her mind, walks with a confident air (yes, even swagger) and illuminates ideas that June hardly ever dared to think, is it any wonder she becomes attracted to this woman?

Soon enough Nancy excites and overwhelms June with electrifying conversation, bold ideas, and of course, potent sexuality.  A relationship between the two women begins as an intense friendship with Nancy slowly pursuing the responsive June in ever-shrinking circle of coy and not-so-coy advances.  Soon June, who had always identified as straight (quite possibly because it was the only choice put forth before her) finds herself awakening in more ways than just sexually.  The result is a heady mix of romance, excitement and secrets.

However, very real matters make their love complicated.  There is, of course, the obvious – a married, closeted woman figuring out her path.  A husband who must be kept in the dark and strung along.  A love that is so forbidden that it must be kept to the fringes of society. Two lives that must be maintained and somehow not drained while this clandestine romance is fed.  Ironic complications arise when Nancy, not June, is hesitant to be seen in a group of lesbians at a party with June. Interestingly she voices some truly real concerns of the time: in 1958 when it was hard enough to be accepted she didn’t want to risk alienation among her own for dating a “straight” woman.

Director Kate Holland sets up a beautiful space for this relationship to unfold; many fine touches carry this relationship through in a realistic and honest way reflecting the true portrayal of a conflicted pair who struggle not only against society but against themselves.  High marks go to Jeffrey Coyne who has the difficult job of portraying a husband who is just likable enough to make us understand June’s conflict, but not exactly worth sticking around for.  Coyne does an excellent job of delivering a character we can feel sympathy for, even as we know that, in June’s shoes, we’d be equally as unhappy.

Peter Daniel Straus as June’s long time friend Jerry is wonderful; though the role is much smaller than Mr. Straus’ talents he still was able to telegraph that lifetime of friendship that was so necessary for a woman in June’s position to hold on to.  His comic timing and the sweet and natural way he connected with June provided a welcomed bright note in a play heavy with emotional moments.

June and Nancy is both a universal story as well as a very personal one.  Some things will resonate, some things will illuminate, and in the end this outstanding production will leave you with a very real sense of compassion for two women whose need to be together is stronger than they’d realized.


June and Nancy
Stage Left Studio
Writer: Michelle Ramoni
Director: Kate Holland
When she unexpectedly falls in love with Nancy, 1950s housewife June is faced with the choice between duty and passion. Which path would you follow?
1h 30m   Local   Manhattan, New York
Staycation: Ride the Rollercoaster of Love   Time Traveler
VENUE #07: The Kraine Theater
Fri 17 @ 8:15  Sun 19 @ 12  Wed 22 @ 7  Fri 24 @ 3:15  Sun 26 @ 4:45

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