Pictured: Jessica Almasy, Erin Markey & Kristine Haruna Lee | Photo by Sasha Aleksandra Arutyunova
Based on the myth of Sedna, the Inuit goddess of the sea and ruler of the underworld, War Lesbian follows Sedna (Erin Markey) as she makes the journey from newborn to warrior. Born into the world as a thought given physical form, Markey’s Sedna is naturally inquisitive. However, her mother wishes to avoid the stresses of parenting, instead encouraging her daughter to sit still, avoid thinking, and look pretty.
Her dissatisfaction with her life manifesting itself as a fondness for holes and an insatiable hunger, Sedna’s journey takes a turn when she entertains a gentleman caller, only to eat him alive. When she later attempts to do the same to her father, he retaliates, and she is taken out to sea to be abandoned in the ocean. Though she clings to the side of the boat, her father chops her fingers off, and she falls into the waters below. Luckily, her fingers transform into seals and protect her and, from there, she begins a journey of self-discovery.
Despite the abstract mythological basis for the play, War Lesbian (currently at Dixon Place in New York City) —written by Kristine Haruna Lee, with music by Kathryn Hathaway — manages to tell a compelling modern story about a young lesbian who is forced to find her own self-worth after she is emotionally and physically maimed by her family.
Encountering a vagrant who also happens to be a Moon God, a lazy beached whale in a pink bathrobe, a demonic Ellen DeGeneres, and a comforting lesbian girl next door who sings to her about the stars, Sedna eventually finds her identity, while she continues to struggle as her new aspirations put her at odds with those she loves. Clever set design and costuming keep the play visually engaging, while an incisive wit and contemporary sensibility makes this ancient tale relatable for a new audience.
War Lesbian continues through Saturday, Dec. 20 at Dixon Place, New York City.