Jeff Smith 12:01 p.m., March 29
Whether, as a radio ad says, they're the "Yellow Rose of Texas, or one of God's plainer flowers," everyone in Zsa Zsa Gershick's dramedy is living a double life. Austin, Texas, in the spring of 1944, punishes nontraditional preferences. War rages in Europe, and hate sears the Lone Star hill country where, when her car breaks, down, Helen Burke becomes stranded. She's a writer (did an advice column for Hearst, now's headed for Hollywood). She's also Jewish and a lesbian. She learns that the Webbs, who own the motor lodge (where scorpions nap in empty shoes), their African-American employee Orla Mae, and Nanalu Branch, the local librarian, have been stranded all their lives. They're caught between the ideal, glamorized on radio and in movie mags, and closeted choices. In the middle, they've created false, but life-preserving identities. Though the comedy at times upstages the drama (the jokes are so funny, their absence lulls the pace), and though the ending's more a wish than a possibility in 1944, it's clear to see why Blue Bonnet's won several awards. The Moxie-Diversionary Theatre co-production gets the play's grit and its hope. Her hair swirling like twin tornados, Wendy Waddell exudes Helen's crack-wise attitude. Monique Gaffney's Orla Mae says little, speaks volumes about racial barriers. Jo Anne Glover, Christopher Buess, and Leigh Scarrit play moving variations on the theme of pain. For contrast, Lisel Gorrell-Getz and Fred Harlow etch unreal, often screamingly funny radio personalities (Harlow, in fact, must play half of Austin, from the compassionate to the cutthroat). Jennifer Brawn Gittings's costumes evoke the period with precision.
Worth a try.
When: Ongoing until Sunday, April 13, 2008
- Sundays, 2pm & 7pm
- Thursdays, 7:30pm
- Fridays, 8pm
- Saturdays, 8pm