“Walk Like a Man” is a sexy, sassy, sensitive play about the lives and loves of black lesbians; it also is a powerful and moving human story about people seeking connection, identity and acceptance.
The show, getting its West Coast premiere at the Costume Shop in a Theatre Rhinoceros presentation artfully directed by John Fisher, is based on tales by Laurinda D. Brown, who adapted excerpts from her award-winning short-story collection (also called “Walk Like a Man”) for the stage.
An ensemble of five extremely talented actors playing multiple roles brings Brown’s complicated, real-world characters to life via monologues, dialogue and spoken-word sequences. They don’t mince words or hold back.
The 10 scenarios of “Walk Like a Man” are packed with profanity and graphically sexual language. But supported by believable nuances, humor and emotion, the strong verbiage adds depth and dimension to already interesting and titillating situations.
Desiree Rogers kicks things off, wearing black lace and red undies, in “Foreplay,” a quick, one-woman “lesbian initiation” in which she cleverly engages a woman from the audience who braves the stage.
“Dom and Dommer” is an often funny vignette in which Asia (Rogers) and Katrice (Daile Mitchum), both pants-wearers, duke things out as they try to determine their roles: Who holds the door, who pumps gas, who kills the rat that scurries across the floor?
As Felicity, Kelli Crump flawlessly tells the supremely moving story of her love for Daphne in “Dress, Right Dress.” The pair’s relationship blossomed by phone, is consummated in a single encounter in a hotel, and is cut short after Daphne dies during military duty. While Felicity cannot publicly reveal her anguish, she gets some consolation, at least, in a loving, sincere letter Daphne wrote before her death.
Perhaps the show’s toughest tale is “Monique/Mo” in which Alexaendrai Bond brilliantly portrays the title character, an abused and misunderstood teen who undergoes a complete identity change and flees her troubled home after a neighborhood man rapes her. In the follow-up, “Strapped,” Mo finds solace in a new relationship with a 21-year-old dancer.
Other evocative stories detail complications that arise when a young working lesbian (Nkechi) finds herself in love with her boss, in “Natasha,” or when college friends Lilah (Rogers) and Iris (Nkechi), both seemingly straight, end up not being so, taking the plunge into deeply physical territory (“Tastes Like Chicken”).
“Legally Yours” is about another unusual family, of two lesbians who are both physically mothers to their newborn daughter: one carried the child, one supplied the egg. Yet the tale is not told in such a clinical way. It is shared with love and care, as are all of the situations in this satisfying show.
Walk Like a Man
Presented by Theatre Rhinoceros
Where: Costume Shop, 1117 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; closes June 15
Tickets: $15 to $30
Contact: (800) 838-3006, www.therhino.org