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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

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A show for the history books: “Milk Milk Lemonade” in a Covid context


This past weekend, the Poison Cup Players, a student run theatre group, kicked off the spring semester show season with the play “Milk Milk Lemonade by Joshua Conkel. This play was one of the two student-directed plays this semester. Joseph Doyle ’21 directed the show and put together an all-student cast and crew. This group has been rehearsing since the beginning of the semester to put on a play during a pandemic, and they have endured a show run like no other.

The approach was unconventional, to say the least. To keep the cast and crew safe while still making the show available to all, Doyle reached out to the playwright himself and got special permission to stream the show, making “Milk Milk Lemonade” the first live streamed show in Loyola theatre history. His show had many moving parts, as the blocking had to be COVID-19 safe as well as conducive for a live stream. In this, Doyle lacked the guidance of past directors because this environment was new and ever-changing. 

Doyle explained that he would go into rehearsal every day and something new would change. They had to get creative and learn to roll with the punches, but nevertheless the show made its debut in one piece. Doyle would like to give a shout out to John McAfee, the new technical director for the theatre department, for all his help during the show. 

Planning for this show did not start at the beginning of the semester. The applications for this play started roughly a year ago. To apply to be a student director, one must apply with a play in mind. Doyle explained that aftering reading a new play every few days, and completing a list of ones he liked, he started to narrow his list and “Milk Milk Lemonade” was one that he just could not eliminate. This show perfectly fit the aim of the Poison Cup Players: performing unique art that would not be completely faculty-approved. 

The set of “Milk Milk Lemonade,” courtesy of Joseph Doyle ’21

“Milk Milk Lemonade” focuses on Emery, played by Matthew Gamerdinger ‘24, an eleven-year-old boy, who is coming of age on a chicken farm with his nana. At the top of the show, we meet the narrator, played by Callie Curley ‘24. The narrator interacts with two other characters: Linda played by Sydney Eichel ‘24, and Elliot played by Micheal Parlett ‘23. She briefly explains her role in this show which breaks down into two pieces: to translate for Linda and to act as the parasitic twin for Elliot. We learn that Elliot  has a parasitic twin inside him who pressures Elliot into doing things he does not want to do.. We meet the lighthearted Emery, who loves dancing, performing, and dreams of escaping to Broadway and leaving his farm life behind. Nana, played by Katelyn Folmer ‘24, who is conservative and wants the best for Emery, sits him down and tells him that he cannot do “girly” things like dance and play with his doll. He should learn how to play catch and be one of the boys so that he does not get made fun of.

Over the course of the play, Emery does not listen to his nana and explores his passions with the help of Elliot, one of his neighbors. They play house and reenact what they see as normal, including a scene where a husband comes home to his wife and they fight. This moment sheds light on Elliot and  Emery’s family dynamics. We see this chemistry that Elliot and Emery have, despite Elliott also having trouble expressing himself. Elliot ultimately likes Emery as he is, but Elliot gives him a hard time anyway since this is how he expresses his affection.

Towards the end of the play, we see the two try to save Emery’s best friend, Linda, a giant chicken who has escaped processing day for years. Many years before this show takes place Lina is a small chicken who escaped processing day and befriended Emery and every year after that he has helped her stay alive, to the point that she is the largest chicken on the farm and Emery best friend. Emery befriended Linda because all the kids at school would make fun of him and bully him, since he had no friends he would hang out with the chickens. This entire show takes place throughout processing day, where the chickens are put into the machine and turned into food. The friendship between Emery and Linda comes to an end with the latter’s demise.

Through the death of Linda, the audience sees that Emery has the strength to stand up for himself. After Lina dies he confronts his Nana about how much he hates living on the farm and that she cannot stop him from pursuing his dreams. Before he would have never done this, without Linda he knew that Nana was the only person tying him to the farm. He also found this new connection with Elliot.  In the end, Emery stands up for himself against his nana and dances with Elliot in a prom scene as the curtains close.

This show does not have the answers to all the questions that it asks, which is one thing that Doyle loves about this show. It leaves the audience with more questions than they came in with. On its surface, this show is just two kids on a chicken farm, but looking closely, we see themes of self-reflection, the battle against internalized homophobia, and acceptance. “Milk Milk Lemonade” has so many different sides and can be interpreted differently by each person. 

Overall, the response from the audiences were positive. I was able to see the show myself and, I have to say, it was hilarious and creative. The cast and crew did a fantastic job. 

“This show was incredible. I thought it was steamy and I really liked the problems that it addressed, and I loved the point of view it gave,” Trinity Riggle ’23 said. Other students had similar opinions. 

“It was fantastic and big props to Joseph Doyle and his team,” said Miranda Schad ’23. This show was wacky and creative in the best ways possible. Some of the cast’s favorite scenes were the musical numbers, especially the ribbon dance Emery performs, Linda’s standup comedy, and the narrator’s spider scene. 

I had the opportunity to talk to the cast and the crew of the show, and they only had good things to say. Many of the actors and crew are first years here at Loyola and, overall, they were so thankful for the opportunities that they experienced and the friends they made along the way. Many talked about the fun experiences they had like Matthew: “ Everyone has made me feel really involved, especially as a freshman, it has been an honor, really it has been a ton of fun”. As well as Sydney: “ The people are just like the greatest group of people I have ever met in my life and they really made performing even more fun than it already was”. If you were unable to attend “Milk Milk Lemonade” you missed an opportunity to experience a show like no other. Bravo to the cast and crew for putting on a show Loyola will never forget.

Featured Image courtesy of Sydney Eichel ’24

Update— March 18, 4:45PM:

From the fifth paragraph, the author removed a line imposing a label on Emery’s sexuality.

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A show for the history books: “Milk Milk Lemonade” in a Covid context