Sarah J. Mann’s quirky SHE LOOKS GOOD IN BLACK (produced by Exiled Theatre @ BPT through Oct. 2nd) throws a number of clever curves at the audience while masquerading as outrageous comedy… or is it comic tragedy? Mann’s off kilter take on the concept of grief work is refreshing. This particular widow (Cailin Doran) is distraught but not particularly over the death of her husband. She likes wearing slinky, tight, black spandex.
Doran makes her a woman aching for approval (with a smidgeon of vulnerability), craving to be desired by everyone, by anyone, including the gravedigger who has just interred her husband’s body. He turns out to be a Zen master/philosopher/grief counselor (and something much much more grave). Alexander Rankine gives a memorable performance as her curious, extremely spooky mentor.
Mann doesn’t just jumble together a collection of oddballs. Her characters have inner lives, granted mostly of desperation, but their torment shapes the play—and makes us think seriously about suffering—even as we’re laughing at the bizarre trajectory of the play (which I cannot divulge). The dialogue is witty and Mann’s ideas are delightfully, disturbingly eccentric. Director James Wilkinson keeps the unconventional material remarkably lighthearted.
John Kinde delivers the one pensive, sobering monologue of the piece in flashback for the day of their wedding. Then we’re quickly returned to the widow’s pursuit of some sort of release. As entertaining as I thought the dialogue was, I missed a good portion of it, when actors dropped their voices at the end of a phrase or when they turned toward a fellow actor. I wish I could have heard it all.