By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
It's unclear whether the main characters are supposed to be the same age—they all reminisce about being in classes taught by Sister Rose—but they don't look it. In director Tina Parker's co-production with SMU's Meadows School of the Arts theater program, some actors are in their 20s, others in their 30s or 40s. Confusing.
The play breaks down in episodes: Rooftop in the confession booth, annoying a double-amputee priest (Bill Lengfelder); Inez and Norca arguing; Gail and Flip arguing; Balthazar arguing with Norca; Victor ranting in his underwear.
Averaging at least one uck-fay per minute, Our Lady never solves the case of the stolen corpse (parts of her float up in the river), and all the characters start to sound alike. Guirgis' people are like those under-five-line witnesses on old installments of NYPD Blue (for which Guirgis wrote); they're colorful but predictably coarse urban dwellers. Not a one is worth spending a whole evening with.
Too far into the proceedings to save Our Lady, two performances suddenly explode into something nearly great. Frequent Kitchen Dog actor Ian Leson and SMU senior Keenan Charles Olson share a searing scene as troubled brothers Edwin and Pinky. Older Edwin, a building super, keeps a close eye on Pinky, a sweet kid suffering the effects of a childhood head injury. When Pinky disappears for a day—with his disability check—Edwin flies into a rage.
Leson is a masterful under-player of tension, seething quietly toward the moment when Pinky returns and Edwin's wrath is at last unwrapped. If more of the play were as raw and real as this, it would really be something. Since it's not, at least these two good actors deserve a tip of the flask for their efforts.