If Sam Shepard were to write a teen coming-of-age play, it might come out like Ashlin Halfnight’s Mud Blossom. Set in rural Louisiana, the piece centers on the painful sexual awakening of 15-year-old Camille (Liz Myers) and her feuds with her prudish mother (Jennifer McCabe), warm relationship with her more liberal grandmother (Corinne Edgerly), and frequent asides to an invisible friend. Although Halfnight never explains why Camille has invented this companion, he does reveal the answer to the play’s bigger question: the reason for Camille’s father’s suicide. Not surprisingly, it has something to do with the baby shoes she keeps finding as she works in the mud-filled garden outside the family’s run-down home.
Halfnight combines elements of Southern Gothic literature, after-school specials, and, to a certain extent, Jerry Springer with aplomb, but his jaggedly episodic structure never allows this intriguing mélange to cohere. Kate Pines’s strained and often portentous direction further undermines the piece, enhancing the melodramatic aspects of the play and relegating the characters’ humor and warmth to the sidelines. Don’t be surprised, though, if you find yourself empathizing with Camille, even with the production’s shortcomings: Mud Blossom comes from a playwright who bears watching.