The Michigan Daily
Friday, November 13, 1987
By Elizabeth Atkins
Imagine two passionate, feisty,
foul-mouthed, erotic lesbians who
live in a costume rental shop and
change identities as easily as they
change clothes. Now you've got the
elements of Dress Suits To Hire, a
feminist play written by Holly
Instead of a plot, the women,
named Deeluxe and Michigan, per-
form shocking, sexually explicit
scenes in a competitive, love-hate
lesbian relationship and fill the voids
in each other's lives. For 15 years
they live in their own fantasy-world
and assume bizarre identities,
including sisters, cowboys, twins,
lovers, and a murderer and victim.
"The characters withdraw from
their world, so they create a world
for themselves," Hughes says.
The women try on different roles
as one would try on a dress suit.
Words and memories from their
bonded pasts spark seductions, break-
ups, nostalgias, sexual fantasies, and
Their homogeneous identities
prevent them from distinguishing
one life from the other. For exam-
ple, Michigan and Deeluxe make
biological references to our state but
are unsure whether they've actually
visited it. Hughes, who grew up in
Saginaw, says she feels very
Deeluxe, a "tough cookie with a
glamor complex," may have been a
stripper during her life but she is
unsure. Hughes says the character is
a combination of Rita Hayworth and
Actors Peggy Shaw and Lois
Weaver of the Split Britches com-
pany, which is known as a "queer
theater" group, play Deeluxe and
Hughes says her work fits into
the "queer theater," a rebellious off-
shoot of feminist and lesbian theater.
As traditional feminist theater has
certain values, political meanings,
and functions (similar to
Thanksgiving to Americans, Hughes
says), "queer theater" is anarchistic,
disruptive, and avant-garde mod-
ernist. Hughes says "queer theater"
confronts the contradictions in femi-
nist and lesbian theater.
The playwright adds that the
unfolding of her characters takes
precedence over an intricate plot.
"These two women and their
relationship is more important than
what happens, like a significant
event," Hughes says.
Actor Weaver explains that "queer
theater" is to feminist theater as the
word "dyke" is to lesbianism. "Queer
theater goes beyond the political
definition (of lesbianism) and gives a
sense of power, a sense of anarchy,
and a desire to disrupt," she says.
Hughes describes the characters as
"outsiders, outlaws, and quasi-
criminals." She wrote Dress Suits
based on a legend in New York's
East Village about two sisters who
lived together in a tux-rental shop
and frequented a seedy bar called
"Little Peter's." One of the sisters
got killed by an intruder. Shaw and
Weaver relayed the myth to Hughes
and asked her to write a play about
Other works by Holly Hughes
include The Lady Dick and The
Well of Horniness.
Dress Suits has been described as
rude, politically incorrect, sleazy and
overtly sexual. Hughes follows the
structure of films noirs and the raw
energy of early '60s off-Broadway
theater to explore images of women
Two leading feminist drama
critics - Sue-Ellen Case, a drama
professor at the University of Wash-
ington, and Elin Diamond, an En-
glish professor at Rutgers University
- will hold a panel discussion
following each performance.
DRESS SUITS FOR HIRE will
be performed tonight and tomorrow
at 8 p.m. in the Trueblood Theatre.
Tickets are $6 for general admission
and $4 for students and are available
- at the Michigan League Ticket
Office or at the door.
Peggy Shaw (left) and Lois Weaver (right) play two eccentric lesbians named Decluxe and Michigan in
'Dress Suits to Hire,' a feminist play by Holly Hughes.
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