In her audaciously titled one-woman show, "Commie Lesbos From Outer Space," performer Ann Beigel tells a story about a little boy she used to see in her New York City neighborhood. The boy's golden retriever was never more than 2 feet away from him.
Then one day she saw the boy without the dog. When she came closer, she noticed the dog's lifeless body lying on a pile of trash bags. Suddenly a policeman appeared and screamed at the child, "We have leash laws in this city. You got exactly what you deserved."
Instantly, Beigel realized the boy would hear that voice for the rest of his life. And she felt a hurt that resonated for her, as a lesbian -- a hurt that "someone just spit on that kid's love."
Although we first see Beigel wearing a toy space helmet and wielding a toy space gun to the strains of the "2001" theme, Strauss' "Thus Spake Zarathustra," she quickly informs us that "Commie Lesbos From Outer Space" -- playing a late-night engagement at the Theatre Project -- isn't about communists or outer space. "We just thought that title up to try to drag some more people in," she admits with the frankness and humor that permeates this largely autobiographical show, directed and co-authored by Jerry James.
Frankness is also a hallmark of the language, which frequently exceeds the standards set for this newspaper. But while the golden retriever story is one of the few that can be printed here in full, its message has a universality that characterizes most of "Commie Lesbos."
In fact, if there is a major shortcoming to this heartfelt show, it is an excess of messages and armchair philosophizing (there's even an armchair on stage). And though it may sound churlish to fault something for being too affirmative, the script goes a bit overboard with aphorisms such as, "Shame is the key that keeps us all prisoner," or Beigel's climactic realization of the importance of being "the hero of your own life."
But there's also enough conflict to lend a sense of drama to this two-act show, which bears more than a few similarities to former Marylander David Drake's long-running off-Broadway hit, "The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me." Though Beigel is a less charismatic performer than Drake, she conveys a sense of earnestness that almost compensates.
Growing up with a seemingly perfect identical twin, Beigel relates her efforts to seek refuge in her imagination -- developing a teen-age crush on Barbra Streisand and creating new episodes of "Father Knows Best" in which Princess asks her father's advice on lesbianism.
At the same time, young Annie hears disturbing voices in her head, which she enacts in authoritarian tones. She calls these voices "The Committee" and explains that they represent "the voices of correctness."
What is correct for The Committee, however, is not correct for Beigel -- a point reinforced by the fact that the voices cease after she comes to terms with her own nature.
Coming to terms with yourself is clearly the central message of this message-laden work, and while this is hardly a new or startling revelation, it is expressed so sincerely and entertainingly that it will probably touch anyone who, for any reason, has ever felt like an outsider.
And, despite Beigel's disclaimer, that's the meaning of the title; "Commie Lesbos From Outer Space" is about feeling out of sync with society. You don't have to be a communist or a space alien to get the point.
"Commie Lesbos From Outer Space"
Where: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.
When: Fridays and Saturdays at 9:45 p.m., Sundays at 7 p.m., through Oct. 24
Call: (410) 752-8558