Shirley Valentine

At 42, Shirley is in a cage. She's been married for decades, has a pair of grown children, and is now trapped in a lonely world with no one to talk to for long stretches of time except for her kitchen wall. An opportunity to break out has been given—a two-week trip to Greece on the dime of her best friend—but can she find the courage to escape, and will it be the change she needs? Willy Russell's one-woman play has been a popular piece since it was first performed in 1988, and the new Jungle Theater production shows us why. Shirley is a delightful character, full of energy and a burning desire to finally begin living her life. It's a dream everyone, no matter how successful they feel, has inside: to break out of their routine into something different and free. Russell may hammer the point a bit much, especially in the Greece-set second act, but those occasional doubts are overwhelmed by Cheryl Willis's performance. The Liverpool native certainly has the sound of the character down, but, more importantly, she fully inhabits Shirley, bringing to life all her anxieties, dreams, and humor. Bain Boehlke's direction helps to bring all of this out without interfering with the performance. The two of them work wonderfully together here, making the one character fill the stage with life and energy. Boehlke's set—at first a Liverpool kitchen and then a rocky beach in Greece—unifies the action and helps us to fully inhabit Shirley's world. One-actor shows can be exercises in narcissism, but the Jungle always bridges the gap between character and audience, making us as much a player as the kitchen wall or the silent Grecian rock. $10-$35. 2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.822.7063. Through March 20