Rating: (5 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!] Saturday, 10/17/2009, 5:00pm Feature presentation, $10 at Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Center for the Arts
THE SLIDE SHOW plays across the white doors of a closet in a darkened room, images of two young women touring the cities of Europe and frolicking on the beaches of the Hamptons in the early 1960s. A solo shot appears of Edie kneeling in beach grass, her hair a voluptuously stylish bouffant and her bust pushed upward and outward by her tightly fit bikini. In the present of the bedroom, Thea says with delight, ”I think I’ll look at this picture for an hour while everybody has lunch.”
That delicious combination of love and desire forms the core of Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement, the story of two women who began their life together during the closeted pre-Stonewall era and later became icons and advocates for marriage equality. Edie, a working class girl who bucked a husband and expectations by gaining a mathematics degree and landing a job in computer for IBM, met Thea, an upperclass Jewish girl who was the product of an elite Northeastern education, at one of the numerous clandestine lesbian bars of New York City in the late 1950s.
Told through a series of interviews with the couple alongside photos and archival footage, Edie & Thea is a small marvel of documentary filmmaking, pulling you completely into their lives as, after a decades long relationship, they finally are able to marry in Canada. By that time, Thea is confined to a wheelchair by her multiple sclerosis, although that doesn’t stop the couple from dancing.
The interviews mostly take place at the couple’s small beach house, where Thea says, ”I’m beginning the process of dying and now I’m trying not to cry.” Then, with a big smile, ”I had my summer.” The obvious love and caring between the women is inspiring and, in the end, heartbreaking as age and time waits for no one, even those so deeply in love.
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