Lips Together, Teeth Apart

By Terrence McNally

Lips Together, Teeth Apart
Lips Together, Teeth Apart


Directed by Seth Remington

Produced by Remarcable Productions

At the Viaduct Theatre, Chicago

Unlikeable characters in boring situations makes for a depressing play

With all the terrific plays written by Terrence McNally, Master Class, Love! Valor! Compassion!, The Full Monty and Ragtime,  I wonder why director Seth Remington chose Lips Together, Teeth Apart ? The dated 1991 homophobic comedy (devoid of laughs) features two middle aged couples spending a weekend at the former summer cottage on Fire Island of the brother of one of the four visitors.  The deceased brother died of AIDS and left the cottage to Sally Truman (Jill Connolly).

She, together with her husband, Sam (Christopher Marcum) and his sister Chole Haddock (Jeanne  T. Arrigo) and her husband, John (JohnArthur Lewis) are assembled on the ocean side cottage to celebrate the 4th of July holiday.  We meet four of the most unlikable characters imaginable in what must be McNally’s  folly. I can’t imagine a more worthless and depressing play that contains two related couples exuding  much self-hatred and negativity.

Lips Together, Teeth Apart

Once we get to know these four, we’re ready to leave the theatre. Of the four losers – Chloe is the most obnoxious, doting and irritating character imaginable. Her antics dominate the 90 minute first act.  She wears us out with her attention-getting doddering. Then there is John – a mad-at-the-world sour-faced short-temperated man who seems bored with life. He pines for Sally, his sister-in-law with whom he had an affair with. Sam is the self-doubting, insecure husband worried that he’ll lose his Sally. Sally is the creative type unable to bear children who wallows in gloom.

In Lips Together, Teeth Apart, the dialogue is filled with showbiz references, racial slurs and nasty “fag” references. Three of the four are offended by the gay folks who live on both sides of their cottage. Da! It’s Fire Island!

The work drones on with more and more depressing situations until strong feels of self-hatred dominates. Talk about a “downer” of a play – there is no one to relate toward – no one to cheer for – and there is no satisfactory resolution for these miserable souls. I felt like I was in theatre hell for two hours viewing this negative work. I can’t imagine who the audience is for this play? Who wants to spend time with a group of depressed folks? I was ready of a stiff drink after seeing this show and I don’t drink!

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: June 3, 2011

At the Viaduct Theatre, 3110 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL, tickets $18, Fridays 7 Saturdays at 7 pm, Sundays at 3pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through July 2, 2011