Love train

Pulp Vixens whip up some romance of the rails.

SEATTLE THEATER TROUPE Pulp Vixens performs an invaluable service by reminding us that—contrary to popular perception—it's not just gay men who have a sense of the ridiculous. The Vixens are dedicated to showing that lesbians can have just as much fun sending themselves up as anybody.

Derailed Desires

Spintron through August 28

Taking Hamlet's advice to the players ("Suit the action to the word, the word to the action") with a hilarious degree of fidelity, the company takes the overheated metaphors and sensationalistic situations of the luridly jacketed "lesbian" novels of the 1950s and gives them physical utterance. Their breasts heave, their eyes lock, they stalk each other like cats, and they threaten to turn from respectable women into sex-crazed animals at any moment. It's an eloquent send-up of popular perceptions of lesbian life, putting the idea of "shame" cheerfully back in the sexual game.

That said, Derailed Desires is something less than their best work. Set aboard the Labia (that's pronounced "Lah-beeah") Express, a train ride "just for the girls," it follows pulp writer Esther (Jennifer Jasper) as she tries to chronicle the seduction of meek housewife Louise (Mia Levine) by sultry jailbird Cat (Shawn Yates). But she in turn is being stalked by her subjects, who want to turn the tables in the game and write her into the story.

Even by the rough-and-ready standards of bar theater, this show's pretty sloppy. The procession-style staging, with a long runway extending into the audience, certainly evokes the overheated passageways of a passenger train, but it also has the actors scrambling around each other as a matter of course. And there's surprisingly little of the sort of clever genre-teasing that the trio did so successfully in its "prequel" Innocent Heat, where the "lurid life of the lesbian underworld" and the catfights of a "caged women" story line were parodied. Instead, the plot of the sultry Cat never really goes anywhere except round in a great big circle.

Still, the laugh quotient is reasonable, and the pleasant-voiced Ms. Yates provides a couple of fun torch-song numbers. Seen with its prequel (as it runs this Friday and Saturday only), Derailed Desires is a novel-length set of comedy that's as juicy as a T-bone steak frying on the live third rail.

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