On his 60th birthday, astronomy professor Ansel Barber sits on his roof, staring through a telescope at the heavens. One by one, his family and friends crawl out a dormer window and bring him down to earth for a night of dark revelry and confrontation in the new musical Soft Noodle Map, written and directed by and starring Matthew Posey at his tiny Ochre House.
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Posey's scripts often play as if he starts the story well before the show begins. In this one, long-simmering squabbles focus on a daughter, Cordelia (Konnar Hunter), who's had a baby out of wedlock with a bum named Pooky (Josh David Jordan). Pooky might've also had a fling with Ansel's wife, Sarah (Carla Parker), so he's persona not-at-all grata when he turns up at the birthday party with a Mormon girl named Cricket (Danielle Bondurant).
Over the rooftop crawls twangy philosopher Elwood (Christian Taylor), spitting chaw juice into a plastic cup. Then comes a pill-popping doctor (Kevin Grammer) and his strung-out wife (Cassie Bann). Everybody sings moody, poetic songs written for the show by Bobby Fajardo, Jeff Keddy, Trey Pendergrass (who leads the four-piece band) and Deanna Valone. They don't sing well. But that hardly matters. The magic in Posey's work comes from the intimate setting -- his stage is the size of a king-sized bed -- and the intense commitment his actors project in making it all feel real.
There's a hint of King Lear in Ansel Barber, a touch of Jacques Brel in the music. Posey and company create a nice corner of the universe as they orbit their tiny stage. He writes about sad people who somehow make us happy to have met them.
Soft Noodle Map continues through February 21 at Ochre House, 825 Exposition Ave. Tickets, $15, at 214-826-6273 or at ochrehousetheater.com.