Jim Craven is a marvelous performer, giving Louie both a short fuse, a quiet sense of humor, and a pointed way of demanding to be treated properly. He also has a wealth of generosity and decency--you can see why a woman might think he's a worthwhile catch.
But theirs is a relationship with an expiration date stamped right on the top of the box: The two characters really have very little in common, and neither of the performers nor director Lou Bellamy finds any but the most tenuous connection between them. They're both lonely, have a sort of grudging respect for each other, and want to be in a relationship--and that's it.
The play tackles a perfectly ordinary subject, namely, the day-to-day squabbles of a middle-aged African-American couple, yet we don't see this on the stage very often. In the arts, romance--even if doomed--is usually reserved for the young. The play ends on a hopeful note, as romances do, allowing for the unlikely possibility that love alone is enough. I didn't need the ending. I'm creeping up on the decade that leads to middle age, and even failed romances are starting to seem appealing to me.
Gospel of the Messiah Widow plays through February 24 at the Cedar Riverside People's Center; (612) 870-9987.Louie and Ophelia plays through March 4 at the Penumbra Theatre; (651) 224-3180.