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"The Exact Center of the Universe"

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If you're in the mood for a delightful, old-fashioned, well-made play, look no farther than Joan Vail Thorne's Exact Center of the Universe, produced by the (very different) Women's Project. It concerns one of those prim yet feisty southern matrons, Vada Love Powell, and her middle-aged son Apple (actually Appleton, but either way the apple of her eye), whom she just about turned into a sissy, until he meets two extraordinary young women.

I can't tell you more about this fragile and aromatic play, except that Vada and her coevals Enid and Marybell like to play canasta and gossip in a tree house, and that Vada's late husband . . . but I mustn't tell you that either. What I can tell you is that under John Tillinger's sympathetic direction Center tickles with its juicy dialogue and zesty characters. The performances of Bethel Leslie, Marge Redmond, Tracy Thorne, and Reed Birney couldn't be more flavorous, and, as Vada, Frances Sternhagen is good enough to eat. In fact, the whole thing leaves you with a distinctive taste in your mouth -- something like dining at your favorite, cozy neighborhood restaurant on a night when the chef surpasses himself.


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