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“Nothing erodes a mountain of pain better than a river of friendship.” The World Premiere of Unpacking P’Town explores the lives of four friends and artists who were warriors for LBGT Pride. 

Review by Vince Mediaa

NCTC continues their successful 29th season with Jewelle Gomez’s new play UNPACKING P’TOWN now on the Walker Stage through March 31. This is Gomez's third commissioned world premiere for NCTC and her third part of a trilogy focusing on black artists. In this new work Gomez brings a family of theatre friends together at one of their summer beach homes. The year is 1959 and the struggle for civil rights and gay rights is a major topic with the friends' summer meetup. Director Kimberly Ridgeway brings a polished cast of five compelling actors together to celebrate this new work.

Every summer four friends remember their vaudeville days at their annual summer reunion in Provincetown.  Buster, Lydia, Minty, and Scottie and the spirit of Miss Queppish reunite in Provincetown to drink, dance, and forget about the real world. But this year there are issues and break ups, and the cute neighbor garden boy Anando who loves to flirt with Buster. The threat of their lovely cottage near the beach is about to be sold by the city, and Buster needs a beard.

The cute beach home also includes a ghost who they all acknowledge as the lovely Miss Queppish. The spirit speaks to them from the attic and cleverly places items around the home, including books, and paint brushes to inspire each of the characters. Buster played by the splendid Shawn J West, and Scottie played by local favorite Matt Weimer are a mixed couple. Both at odds and dealing with their breakup. Both dealt with some harsh bullying as their mixed gay friendship was against the law in the cities they performed. Scottie with his rich Scottish accent brings a lot of Broadway to the meetup breaking into the classics: Oklahoma, Stormy Weather, Old Black Magic and so many others. To the delight of Miss Queppish and Lydia and Minty.

The local Wampanoag native people of P Town kept Lydia played by the marvelous Awele, aware of her native heritage she has struggled with. A Black woman who brings a classy element of cheer to the friends and a load of Harlequin books she loves to read. Minty played by the impressive Desiree Rogers is an ex stagehand and costume designer who worked with all three and rents a cottage alongside the haunted Queppish bungalow. Minty loves the local pizza parlor and enters each of her scenes with a different slice as she encourages Lydia to own her native american heritage. As with the other former performers they all had to conquer the many obstacles POC folks dealt with during their vaudeville era. Minty has some of the best lines “He’s as nervous as a pimp in a PTA meeting”, she too is dealing with a break from her lover Erlene. 

The four friends bring some luggage to deal with, as the spirit of Miss  Queppish barks her vibes from an attic window. West and Awele perform a flawless soft shoe, and later West as Buster tap a classic vaudeville flair choreographed by the clever Christina Lazo. To add to the summer fun a very cute gardener high schooler played by the terrific Stephen Kanaski keeps the family of friends on their toes. Anando the boy next door who was hired by Minty to take boxes of memories to sell at the thrift store. The four have seen this boy grow up and are fond of him. Anando’s dad owns the local bakery and hopes his son will take over, but the teen wants to attend Art School. Yet the main rumble is Anando’s love for Buster, while the classy actor dancer asks Lydia to be his beard when his father visits.

Set designer Thomas O’Brien, created a nostalgic beach cottage seaside set that includes his props of colorful summer chairs and a wonderful bar for Scottie to mix his buckets of drinks. O’Brien beach bungalows set includes a wonderful attic window for Miss Queppish to send her vibes, excellently highlighted by Stephanie Anne Johnson, warm lighting design and sound effects of Lana Palmer. Nia Jacobs' summer costumes bring that late 50’s look to the family of friends. Director Ridgeway brings out the keen energy from the cast especially during the brief moments of show tunes and wonderful soft shoe dances with Buster and Lydia. Jewelle Gomez script references the names of  P’Town beach past visitors including Arthur Godfrey, Carmen McRae, and Tennessee Williams and kept Scottie busy singing short clips. Gomez’ use of Miss Queppish as their Greek chorus is also very clever.

UNPACKING P’TOWN is Jewelle Gomez’s tribute to Gay and Lesbian forgotten warriors. It is also a celebration of friendship, tears and love with an excellent cast and craft team. Next up at the NCTC is THE TUTOR another World Commission by Torance Assaf that opens April 5th. But in the meantime - this beach love story for friends and spirits is a must see and bring a slice of pizza for Minty and Miss Queppish. 

New Conservatory Theatre Center Presents

The World Premiere of


By Jewelle Gomez,

Directed by Kimberly Ridgeway,

Choreographer Christina Lazo

Must Close March 31, 2024

New Conservatory Theatre Center

 25 Van Ness Ave at Market Street, San Francisco, CA

Running time 2 hours with intermission

Tickets and information at 415-861-8972 or

Photos by Lois Tema


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