See The Secretaries at the NY Fringe Festival

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See The Secretaries at the NY Fringe Festival

At Cooney Lumber in Big Bone, Oregon the secretaries are all on the same cycle, Slim Fast is a religion, and the mill loses a lumberjack every 29 days.

Written by The Five Lesbian Brothers and first produced at the WOW Café in 1993, the play explores a specifically and deliciously lesbian form of camp, with pre-stonewall stereotypes, fun with tampons, and sex charged power plays that masquerade as female bonding. The Secretaries is an exploration of the way women not only internalize sexism but enforce it among one another. Disturbingly, in its current run as part of NYC’s Fringe Festival, the play is as current in 2010 as it was in the nineties.

Elizabeth Whitney shines in the lead role as naive new girl Patty Johnson. Through flashbacks, Patty shares her tale of having joined a murderous secretarial cult. At first the character seems like a dead-ringer for Elizabeth Moss' Peggy on Mad Men (even though the play obviously predates the series), with her humble ambitions, latent feminism, and catch-all front bang curl, but as the play, along with her hair, unfurls, Whitney's performance really carries the production.

In the beginning she’s the sweet, up-and-coming office starlet earning her prized secretary-of-the-month sweater set after only a week on the job but quickly she becomes an integral part of the office drama. Former office fave Ashley Elizabeth Fratangello (Karen Stanion) hates her, office lesbian Dawn Midnight (Virginia Baeta) wants to do her, and office submissive Peaches Martin (Elizabeth Bell), just wants to be liked by her. Patty, despite signing a required celibacy contract, starts sleeping with lumberjack Buzz, also played by Baeta. This first hint of Patty’s sexual independence slowly—truthfully, maybe too slowly at times—gives way to an all out Amazonian rage, a particular brand of womanly rage rarely seen outside of our own over-the-top, queer lives.

Part office-culture comedy, part over-the-top campy thriller, and part quirky feminist satire, The Secretaries is a smart, insightful, and fun romp through the complex worlds of the homosocial. Although the Greek chorus at the end of the play insists that what we've witnessed isn't fable or allegory, The Secretaries certainly asks some sophisticated and twisted questions about femininity, sexuality, and the urge to retaliate. No surprise that this production is brought to the Lucille Lortel Theatre by TOSOS (The Other Side of Silence), the Off-Off Broadway production team founded in 1974 as the first professional gay theater company.

If you’re in New York this is a must-see Fringe Festival performance for all the right reasons. It's playing at Venue #12, the legendary Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St.

Tickets ($15 in advance, $18 at the door) can be purchased by phone at 866.468.7619), online at, and in person at FringeCentral, 1 E. 8th St. noon-8pm daily. For more information, visit


Comments [2]

LisaLisa's picture



SMBrown's picture

One of the things I

One of the things I definitely miss about NY--Fringe Fest.  Missed the original Secretaries years ago, bummed I didn't know sooner it was coming back!