Amy Resnick plays Lili, a delightful post-feminist lesbian, in Claire Chafee's "Why We Have a Body" at the Tiffany Theater. Lili was inspired to become a private investigator as a girl, after encountering her first lesbian in literature: Harriet the Spy.
How Lili knew Harriet was gay, I don't know. But I accept her confident judgment on this and all matters: In Resnick's hands, Lili is just what you hoped Harriet would grow up to be: smart, observant, dry, witty, pithy, a good listener. Resnick imbues this matter-of-fact person with a searching soul; she's like an Ellen DeGeneres who can really act.
After watching this odd, sometimes pleasing, often self-indulgent play, I still don't know why we have a body, but I would watch Resnick's Lili try to figure out that or any other amorphous philosophical question. The play, too, is amorphous--at intermission the audience lingers, unsure whether to stay or leave its seats. Helpfully, director Jayne Wenger has the word \o7 intermission \f7 projected on a screen; Wenger might as well have projected \o7 ending \f7 as well, because no one knew when that arrived either.
This play is about four women who have no need for men, although not all of the women are lesbians. All of them have seriously quirky jobs: Mary (K. K. Dodds) robs 7-Elevens, is a Joan of Arc fanatic and can apply lipstick in handcuffs. Lili's lover Renee (Shareen Mitchell) is an elegant paleontologist who leaves her husband after Lily awakens her to the joys of same-sex sex.
Last, there's Eleanor (Nellie Cravens), mother of Lili and Mary, an archeologist who's off climbing around mountains and surmising about the shape of the lesbian brain. She doesn't add much to the drama, except to represent another kind of female explorer-philosopher.
There's hardly any drama here. There is a lot of language and idea play, not all of which stands up under close scrutiny. For instance, Mary robs 7-Elevens because she's "tired of putting her mood at the mercy of strangers." One wonders how prison would suit her. Eleanor notes that all women are incest survivors--if you count the thoughts of the world.
Yael Pardess' set is hospitable to this ranging, roving play. She provides a curving, low wall that separates the stage from a large picture-window scrim; the play flows all over the stage in spaces both real and abstract, helped also by Marianne Schneller's lighting.
Cute, clever or warmed-over feminist pillow stitchings? "Why We Have a Body" is all three. Sometimes it seems that either Lili has all the good lines, or that Resnick alone has the key to make sense of Chafee's whims. Sitting on a plane, confident, yet not too, in a stylish suit, trying to impress Renee with tales of the private detective game, Lili confides, "In my business, a preconceived notion is a flat tire." With a plucky tilt to her head, she is Harriet the Spy come to life.
\o7 * "Why We Have a Body," Tiffany Theater, 8532 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, Thur.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 7 p.m. (Sat., 6 and 9 p.m. as of April 29), Sun., 3 and 7 p.m. Ends May 21. $15-$32. (310) 289-2999. Running time: 1 hours, 40 minutes.