Something Borrowed

In The Pantalone Follies, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery


There's plenty of shouting and hand-wringing in the latest dramatic comedy from Fort Worth's Jubilee Theatre, appropriate enough for a play titled Hedy Understands Anxiety. That's a bit of an understatement. Hedy, as played by the appealing Jubilee veteran Evette Perry-Buchanan, is a woman who has spent most of her 30-plus years keeping family, friends and lovers at arm's length. She struggles with insecurities about her identity as a single professional woman raised by her grandmother after her own mother mysteriously bailed and then later purportedly died. She doesn't understand the link between self-confidence and intimacy with others, between how an affirming view from loved ones will help her land the peace she seems always to be tailing. She's smart enough to be a semi-success while shutting people out but not bright enough to realize what she's denying herself. To her, being isolated and still functioning is a kind of victory, but as new questions are raised about her mother, Isadora (Sharonda Burks), after the death of her imperious grandmother, Maxine (Eleanor T. Threatt), Hedy's "independence" begins to sour into loneliness.

This kind of internal struggle is difficult to play out on a stage without some kind of symbolism, or at least a larger external conflict in which to mirror it. Playwright Angela Counts won awards for Hedy Understands Anxiety while she was still in college, and the script feels like it was penned as part of some undergraduate assignment. The litany of domestic crises that develop here feel as though they were lifted from some kind of course outline about condescendingly so-called "women playwrights." It's promising, but never fleshed out as more than a series of interactions that have Perry-Buchanan cringing and yelling until even her grand dramatic gifts come to seem like wheel-spinning.

Sali Pulcinella (Michael Joe Goggans) is our guide through the life of a commedia performer in Hip Pocket's new journey.
Sali Pulcinella (Michael Joe Goggans) is our guide through the life of a commedia performer in Hip Pocket's new journey.

Details

The Pantalone Follies runs through June 24 at the Oak Acres Amphitheatre, 1620 Las Vegas Trail, Fort Worth. Call (817) 246-9775.

Hedy Understands Anxiety runs through June 24 at Jubilee Theatre, 506 Main St., Fort Worth. Call (817) 338-4411.

I'm going to blame Counts the writer and then director Be Boyd, who might've steered us into a more successful theatrical direction if she'd taken a lighter, conversational approach with her performers. There's room for more farcical lightheartedness, as Hedy leaves her grandmother's brownstone on a cross-country trip but not her grandmother's nagging spirit. Threatt as Maxine returns from the grave to constantly remind our heroine that the path she's following, that of wayward mom Isadora, will lead to the same kind of misery that presumably engulfed her mother. Threatt has a sitcom touch with one-liners that, however broad, at least offers us some relief from Perry-Buchanan's brow-knit fretting. Sharonda Burks is utterly convincing as the distracted, sexy and irresponsible Isadora, so much so that you wish everyone projected her laid-back restiveness. Hedy Understands Anxiety, but unfortunately not many other moods in this dyspeptic look at the costs of flying solo.

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