The Lavender Men Review – If Daydreams were Real

Pete Ploszek, Alex Esola, and Roger Q. Mason in LAVENDER MEN - Photo by Jenny Graham
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Written by and starring Roger Q. Mason, LAVENDER MEN makes its world premiere at the Skylight Theatre in August 2022. A joint production of Skylight Theatre Company and Playwrights’ Arena, LAVENDER MEN is a genre-pushing fantasy about Abraham Lincoln seen through the eyes of Taffeta, a queer person of color. Directed by Lovell Holder, Mason’s pretty pushy and undeniable “queen” weaves historical fact (yes, there really was an Abe Lincoln) into a fictional illusion from the perspective of “every queer, fat person of color who has been ignored, neglected, or erased,” to quote Mason. A combination of dream, vision, and whimsy, LAVENDER MEN poses questions of race, equality, sexuality, visibility, and prejudice – timely and important issues which have yet to be resolved nearly 150 years after Lincoln’s death.

Alex Esola and Roger Q. Mason – Photo by Jenny Graham

Elegant and full-figured Taffeta (Roger Q. Mason) lets the audience know right off the bat that they will be playing all the roles required in the play except for Lincoln (Pete Ploszek) and Elmer Ellsworth (Alex Esola), Lincoln’s right-hand man. Who is Taffeta? Mason is happy to describe Taffeta: “She’s a queen, a soldier, a lover, a human striving to dispel the loneliness we all feel at 3 a.m. when the voices come in…Black, Filipinx, queer, TGNC, and plus-size.” The tale hops around from the 1860s to the present and back again. And again. Because, after all, THE LAVENDER MEN is a fantasy – and therefore isn’t required to stick to chronology – or even to logic. It’s Taffeta’s ruminations about what might have been, what could be, and what this queen would like to see. As such, it’s a roller coaster without a clear-cut destination. But you’ll want to go along on the ride – because it’s exciting and fun.

Alex Esola and Pete Ploszek – Photo by Jenny Graham

Roger Q. Mason holds the tale together – the one constant in a continually changing landscape. Mason and his two fellow travelers, Ploszek and Esola, manage with talent and skill to keep the boat on an even keel – even when the water is shallow or rocky. Stephen Gifford’s scenic design is fluid and keeps the action going. Kudos to Wendell Carmichael’s costume design. Those antebellum fashions are perfect – and the fantasy additions keep the play just where it should be – in Taffeta’s mind. Dan Weingarten’s lighting, Erin Bednarz’s sound, and Jobel Medina’s choreography add to the surreal quality of the production. And let’s not forget David Gonzalez, who has composed the original music.

Roger Q. Mason and Alex Esola – Photo by Jenny Graham

LAVENDER MEN is definitely a fantastic production which demands that the audience suspend reality in order to get into Taffeta’s groove. But the transition is worth it. You’ll see some unexpected “what-ifs” which may knock your socks off. This is a thought-provoking piece – but, at the same time, it’s also entertaining and fun. In keeping with COVID-19 recommendations, the Skylight Theatre requires proof of vaccination and masks inside the theater.

Director Lovell Holder, Alex Esola, Roger Q. Mason, and Pete Ploszek after the show – Photo by Elaine L. Mura

LAVENDER MEN runs through September 4, 2022, with performances at 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays, at 3 p.m. on Sundays, and at 7:30 p.m. on Mondays (No performance on 8/8/22). Streaming available beginning 8/20 at 8:30 p.m. The Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 ½ North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Tickets start at $20 (limited tickets for Pay-What-You-Can with code ACCESS and discounts for seniors, students, under 30, and through Season Flex Packages). For information and reservations call 213-761-7061 or go online.

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