The Well of Horniness (1983) is an early example of an out lesbian playwright appropriating the "homicidal homosexual" for her own radical purposes. The play was originally performed for a predominantly lesbian audience at the WOW Cafe, but it's frequently been revived by other companies for not-necessarily-queer audiences -- and in their fascinating conversation, Dolan and Hughes discuss how different venues and audiences can affect the meaning of queer culture.
In Murder Most Queer, I write about the significance of the "killer lesbian" in The Well of Horniness, along with Lesbians Who Kill by Split Britches and The Secretaries by the Five Lesbian Brothers, in a section about the WOW Cafe. Here's my take on Holly Hughes's funny and incisive play:
Holly Hughes was instrumental in creating one of the house styles of the WOW Cafe, which C. Carr described as "dyke noir." Her 1983 cult hit The Well of Horniness was an over-the-top all-female burlesque that was part parody of the classic lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, part trashy lesbian pulp novel, and part radio soap opera, complete with vocal sound effects, organ stabs, and commercial breaks. In the play, Vicki is engaged to marry Rod, but her secret past as a member of a "sapphic sorority" is in danger of being exposed when she meets Rod's lesbian sister, Georgette. When Georgette is shot dead in a lesbian lounge, Vicki is suspected, and private detective ("lady dick") Garnet McClit is on the case. Garnet falls in love with Vicki and reveals that the real killer is Babs, the tough-talking hatcheck girl who was Georgette's previous lover. Babs (who is greeted with hisses each time she enters) tries to frame Vicki and is about to kill Rod, but suddenly the scene shifts--and we realize that everything we've seen was Vicki's dream.
Babs the killer lesbian was, in fact, imagined by Vicki, a closet case who fantasizes about "killing off" her own lesbianism so she can be "the best little wifeypoo a man could ever want." Yet Vicki is perhaps also expressing a fear and desire when she fantasizes that Babs will kill Rod, thus relieving Vicki of the need to be a wifeypoo and allowing her to continue her affair with the lady dick. Even while the play revels in campy presentations of the villainous dyke, Hughes exposes the actual murderous rage (and lesbian passions) in the dream life of Vicki, the femme who has "defected" from the sisterhood and is trying to pass as straight. Repressive heteronormativity becomes the real villain of the play. Of course, the heteronormativity in The Well of Horniness is presented queerly, since a woman plays Vicki's future husband Rod, and the playwright herself originally played Vicki. Kate Davy has argued that Hughes's work "liberated lesbian and feminist theater from the 'good-girl syndrome,'" freeing it from the need to beg for acceptance and allowing it to be "sexy and dangerous." Hughes's play about the expression and repression of erotic and violent passions set the stage for similar works that would find a home at the WOW Cafe. [Murder Most Queer, 92-93]