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Fefu and Her Friends shows the senseless side of sisterhood; The Glass Menagerie makes heartbreak look happy; Indigo Blues explores the looniness of Southern living

Although we know that the glass will break and Laura's last chance at happiness will waltz out the door with the gentleman, the predictability of it all can ultimately deepen the play's pathos. Theatre in the Round's production does little to accentuate the tragedy, however, opting instead for a sort of bittersweet memoir. O'Connor as the gentleman is a good-natured chump. Tom, too, becomes a sort of wistful fool, bouncing on the furniture while raging against his mother's tyranny and mugging like a spoiled child while she scolds him for his excessive drinking. Olson is suitably desiccated as the overbearing Southern matriarch but altogether too genial for the part--without the passive-aggressive witch turning everyone's existence into a living hell, can this really be Tennessee Williams?

 

Subtract the pathos and you have Judi Ann Mason's Indigo Blues, now playing at Penumbra Theatre. Think of it as Tennessee Williams Lite--gentleman callers, loony Southern belles, and lots of shouting without any of that distracting subtlety or substance. Indigo Blues begins and ends with a smoldering saxophone solo courtesy of Idris Ackamoor. What comes between is anyone's guess. It is either a romantic drama about two Southern sisters caught in a love triangle, or a ridiculous comedy about two Southern sisters caught in a love triangle.

Tennessee Williams lite? Sisters Muriel (Candy Brown) and Clara (Edythe Jason) and their potential paramour, Moses (Idris Ackamoor), from Indigo Blues
Tennessee Williams lite? Sisters Muriel (Candy Brown) and Clara (Edythe Jason) and their potential paramour, Moses (Idris Ackamoor), from Indigo Blues

In either case the two sisters, Clara (Edythe Jason) and Muriel (Candy Brown), are both carrying a flame for the itinerant sax man, Moses (Ackamoor), who split town 30 years earlier. Since the play is set in the South, one of the sisters is a somewhat batty faded beauty, and the other is a frustrated spinster. Moses' return from his exodus gives both sisters a chance to scream, get on each other's nerves, and exchange lines like "You're still running behind a pair of pants because there's a man in them."

When the dialogue becomes repetitive (as it does repeatedly), Ackamoor steps in with a meandering solo. His music is a pleasant distraction, er, interlude, yet it isn't enough to save a script that doesn't bother to differentiate between sitcom and soap opera. Though guffawing heartily, we're left with the feeling that we may be laughing at Indigo Blues rather than because of it.

 

Fefu and Her Friends runs through March 7 at the Phoenix Playhouse; (612) 813-0385. The Glass Menagerie runs through March 7 at Theatre in the Round; (612) 333-3010. Indigo Blues runs through March 21 at Penumbra Theatre; (651) 224-3180.

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