When the Messenger Is Hot

In Laura Eason’s Steppenwolf-forged play (based on the 2004 short stories by Elizabeth Crane), thirtysomething Josie, as aspiring writer, seeks love in all the wrong places while communicating with Mom, whom she remains desperate to please. Eason shrewdly splits Josie into three actresses, which mitigates the “all-about-me” orientation of the text. At first the multiple “selves” gimmick grates, but as context develops and the actresses take ownership of distinct character-nuances, it pays off. As Mom, Karen Nelsen blends profanity and pretense, narrowly avoiding a cliché of eccentricity. The spare stage is no hindrance to story, thanks to creative blocking and lots of explicitly narrated description of what’s going on. While not gut-busting, the humor is subtle and feels real. We pull for this vulnerable everygal whose three selves in flagrante denial plot to cheat death (“it can’t stick!”), and who never encounters a pothole into which she does not wholeheartedly insert her ankle. MARGARET FRIEDMAN [See Margaret's full review.]

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: March 12. Continues through April 11, 2009

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