Holly Hughes’ farcical radio play, “The Well of Horniness,” a 1980s spoof of 1940s radio detective dramas, will open the USM Theatre season this month at Russell Hall, Gorham campus, replete with lusty lesbians, a sorority of sin and a captivating — and campy — murder mystery.

Meghan Brodie, USM assistant professor of theatre, will direct an Actors’ Lab staged reading of Hughes’ 1983 play that borrows from the title of Radclyffe Hall’s controversial 1928 novel, “The Well of Loneliness.” Hughes’ take on the modern lesbian, however, could not be more different than Hall’s. This is the naughty side of noir.

“Part 1940s detective story, part soap opera, and part camp comedy, ‘The Well of Horniness’ is a lesbian romp through several genres,” said Brodie. “While the play is often silly and spares no puns, it remains a relevant — and, at times, uncomfortable — social critique of homophobia, sexism, and racism, over three decades after it was written.”

In USM’s staged reading, the audience will be treated to a would-be live radio broadcast. Actors will take the stage with radio microphones and subtle costume changes, and they will produce many of their own sound effects.

So, about that peaceful New England town. It seems to be brimming with lesbians, all of whom appear to be members of the sorority of sin, the Tridelta Tribades. “Reformed” lesbian Vicki has forsaken the sorority, only to be plunged into monogamous monotony with her shag-carpet-pedaling, soon-to-be-husband Rod, whose sister, Georgette, happens to be a tried-and-true member of the Tribades. Though Vicki is reluctant to reunite with any of “those women,” for fear that Rod will learn the secret of her past, she agrees to join the two for dinner.

Georgette arrives early at the restaurant and runs into an old flame, a hatcheck girl whom she apparently spurned. When Vicki arrives, she and Georgette end up really hitting it off. After a lusty encounter, the two women excuse themselves and resume their meeting in the powder room.

Just then, a shot rings out — Georgette has been shot! A panicked Vicki scrams. So who is the femme fatale? Could it be Vicki? The hatcheck girl with a grudge? Rookie Irish cop, Detective Garnet McClit, is on the case.

“More than anything else, the show is fun,” said the director “It provides a laugh-out-loud evening of entertainment for mature audiences.”

“The Well of Horniness” includes mature subject matter and the USM Department of Theatre does not advise children under the age of 16 to attend.

“Students are learning how to approach comic material that could prove offensive to some audience members,” said Brodie. “That’s a valuable lesson for them. Artists are often risk-takers and an educational environment is the ideal place to experiment, grow, and learn about ourselves and others.”

There will be a post-show discussion following the Saturday, Sept. 27 performance, co-sponsored by USM’s Women & Gender Studies program.


7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25

7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27

5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28

Cast List (by name, role, year, major, and hometown):

Aileen Andrews (Narrator), senior art and entrepreneurial studies major, Scarborough

Ryan Biggs (Ensemble) junior theatre major, Steep Falls

David Bliss (Al Dente), junior theatre major, Portland

Brittney Cacace (Ensemble), junior theatre major, Limington

Owen Carten (Rod), junior theatre major, Portland

Mary Kate Ganza (Narrator), senior theatre major, Waterville

Sarah Kennedy (Georgette), senior theatre major, Gorham

Hannah Perry (Vicki), senior theatre major, Hartford

Courtney Pomerleau (Ensemble), senior theatre major, Belgrade

Caleb Streadwick (Ensemble), sophomore theatre major, Harpswell

Caroline Smart (Babs), senior theatre major, Lincoln

Rhiannon Vonder Haar (Detective Garnet McClit), junior vocal performance major, Bar Harbor

“The Well of Horniness,” by Holly Hughes, directed by Meghan Brodie, will be performed Sept. 25-28; show times vary; at Russell Hall, 37 College Ave. Tickets are $15 general public/$11 seniors and USM employees/ $8 students; visit usm.maine.edu/theatre or call 207-780-5151.

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