Crooked: Modest but Pleasing

Back talk at the Women's Project

In Catherine Trieschmann's bristly comedy Crooked—about a difficult maternal bond—mother Elise, daughter Laney, and Laney's born-again friend Maribel love their crooked neighbors with all their crooked hearts. Of course, their hearts aren't the only bent body parts here. Laney (Cristin Milioti) suffers from dystonia, a clash of the muscles that distorts her back. "It's not a hump," she insists. "Having a humpback is called kyphosis. I don't have kyphosis."

Perhaps as a consequence, Laney fares somewhat better than literature's most famous chiropractic case, Quasimodo. Though she must endure her Southern high school (easily more daunting than the Notre Dame cathedral), she has the support of her mom (Betsy Aidem) and the friendship of Maribel (Carmen M. Herlihy, luminous in the role). Trieschmann occasionally defers to the cutesy, but she generally lets the characters and their difficult emotions dictate her jokes—as when Laney, fresh from an altar-side buss, declares herself a "holiness lesbian"—"I believe in the power of the Holy Ghost, and I kiss girls."

The play can't always support the multitude of Trieschmann's concerns—the varieties of religious experience, the treacheries of fiction, the suckiness of high school—but it gains strength from director Liz Diamond's skilled, no-nonsense production. A more modest undertaking than some of the Women's Project's recent shows (Transfigures, Sand ), it's also one of the more successful. Crooked is a fine straight play.

 
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