Milk Milk Lemonade • A Dark Inventive Funny Piece of Children’s Theatre for Adults

Pit & Balcony’s Regional Premier Set for Thursday - Saturday, June 27-29th

    Additional Reporting by
    icon Jun 13, 2024
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Playwright Joshua Conkel’s theatrical dialectic Milk Milk Lemonade, which is now in production at Pit & Balcony Community Theatre as part of its After Dark Series, is not about a Katy Perry song, nor is it about  milk or lemonade - but it is, as its name implies, a tale about how two things that may not appear to mix together too well on their surface ultimately can share many things in common.

In the simplest of terms, Milk Milk Lemonade ostensibly tells the tale of Emory, an effeminate 11-year-old boy who lives on a farm with his Nanna, his old friend Linda, who is a depressed chicken about to be processed, and Elliot, the pyromaniac kid down the road who bullies Emory but also likes playing “house” with him.  

Emory dreams of appearing on Reach for the Stars, a reality TV show, winning, and becoming a Broadway star. Between choreographing ribbon dances, playing with his Barbie doll, talking to Linda, observing as the hen does a smut mouthed stand-up comedy routine, and sneaking into the barn to have sex with Elliot, Emory is one busy little boy.

According to the author, Milk Milk Lemonade started as an experiment in memory. “It’s a collage of images, ideas and memories, many of which are completely false, from my childhood.” The out gay playwright goes on to say, “I wanted to write a play about growing up queer that takes place in a nightmare landscape that expresses how terrifying life can be for gay kids in an expressive, rather than strictly literal way.” 

While on the surface this may appear as pretty heavy and serious stuff, instead what Conkel wound up with is a very dark, melancholy, yet funny piece of children’s theatre for adults, filled with questions of gender, life, death and what it means to be ‘different’. 

At its core, Milk Milk Lemonate is about sexuality, gender identity and expression - ideas that, unfortunately, not everyone fully understands and accepts. Thankfully, Conkel has done an excellent job writing a show that will surely leave audiences questioning what the hell they just watched - but to my mind that’s the whole goal and essence of great theatre - to get conversations going and people to question the purity of their ideals and ramifications of their prejudice. 

For director Spencer Beyerlein, while ostensibly about the childhood of a gay boy, the play speaks in parables to the essence of gender identity, the old conflict of nature over nurture, and the necessary dilemmas of choice. 

“The thing I’ve been drilling to the actors in this production is that every character in the show represents something specific. The character of Nanna (played by Leslie Larkins)  is intent on maintaining the status quo and views her role in life as a caretaker; while the lead character of Emory (performed by Meghan Campbell)  is excited by things like ballet and knows how he is and who he wants to be, but is afraid to live that way so tends to be timid around others because the world tells him he can’t be a certain way.”

“The five characters in this show are complex,” he continues. “They consist of the Narrator, performed by Arlo Wesler) who translates what Linda, the depressed chicken played by Holly Houck, says to Emory.. Linda is his best friend because Emory comes to realize this giant chicken is the only one who truly  understands him, and is able to confide in.  Linda is his ‘imaginary friend’ if you will. But what’s great about this production and makes it so funny and brilliant is the way all the characters weave multiple different stories together that ultimately resonate with an overarching theme.”

“I wanted to tackle directing this production because in the world we’re living in now, while we’ve made a lot of strides with gender identity, we’ve also taken some steps backwards and there’s still a lot of hesitancy with accepting people for who they are and letting them be their authentic selves,” reflects Beyerlein. “But on the other hand, I love this play because it does a really good job at putting everything In perspective by making you laugh at the same time you think about these various prejudices, and you don’t really realize that’s what the show’s actually doing, which I feel is why it’s so complex and effective.”

When asked about his biggest challenge pulling all the details together for Milk Milk Lemonade, Beyerlein reference this complexity of both the script and weaving of the characters.

“The biggest challenge is that this script can be interpreted in all these different ways, so I want to make sure my vision is clear cut while also letting the actors have their own visions by feeling these characters. For example, one of the most important things for the character of Emory is that there’s always somebody that’s going to be there for you and its okay to be yourself and have confidence. He gets knocked down in the show a lot, especially by the character of Elliott (portrayed by actor Matthew Howe)  and always goes back to who he is and doesn’t care what people think of him.”

Throughout this memorable and humorously charged parable of choice and expectation, Beyerlein emphasizes the importance for audiences not to harbor any preconceived ideas of what to expect as Milk Milk Lemonade makes its regional debut upon the Pit & Balcony stage. 

“This play is one you really have to listen to because most of the show consists of conversations, along with some audience participation and a couple of dance numbers, so its important to listen to how the characters react to one another and what they’re saying,” he concludes. “It’s easy to lose what the message is in this play because while its riddled with moments of comedy, there are also very dramatic moments for very good reason, and it always has something to take you out of what you thought might be happening.”

“Even though it appears things may end in a blaze, ultimately the characters come into their own and learn how to let go and be themselves.  Plus, seating will be on the stage and we’ll be limiting the audience to 100 per show for each of the three nights we’ll be running it, so another great thing about these After Hours productions is there isn’t a bad seat in the house, which is the perfect setting for creating an intimate experience truly designed to make you think.”

Pit & Balcony Community Theatre’s regional premier of ‘Milk Milk Lemonade will run from Thursda, Friday & Saturday June 27-29th at 8:30 PM. Tickets are only $15.00 and available at

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