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Marsha Norman's "Trudy Blue"

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Marsha Norman wrote Getting Out and 'Night, Mother, which excuses much, but perhaps not her latest, Trudy Blue. A master of realism, Norman boldly resolved to try anti-naturalism here. So we get Ginger -- supposedly a novelist, not a playwright, but we are not fooled that easily -- struggling to create her latest heroine, the quasi-autobiographical Trudy Blue. She conducts lengthy duologues with Trudy, who, impudent thing, ballsily refuses to play ball, and strikes out on her own.

This would have been daringly innovative until 1921, when a certain Luigi Pirandello came out with Six Characters in Search of an Author. Ginger is also ailing from what may be fatal lung cancer or a diagnostic error, and her situation keeps drastically changing. Her doctor and nurse appear in clown getup, to give matters of life and death an absurdist glow.

A daughter and mother add to Ginger's problems: a husband, pretending to care, is a monumental swine who goes fishing when his afflicted wife needs him most. The chief innovation here is the repetition of scenes with minor but supposedly significant differences, such as moving the room around for a new angle of vision. No one emerges very interesting, not even the swine, played cloddishly by John Dossett, possibly at the behest of the undistinguished director, Michael Sexton. The only saving graces are Polly Draper's performance as Ginger and Mark Wendland's décor, conjuring up in a tiny theater a world on scarcely more than the head of a pin.


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