"The Ceramic Cow," the first of two one-acts running at T.U. Studios, is a therapeutic romp for anyone forced to sit through a high school production of "The Glass Menagerie." But its follow-up, "Cacti and I," has, like its subject, a tendency to be prickly and irritating.
Morris (Brad Brizendine) sets the mood for "The Ceramic Cow" with a monologue a la Tennessee Williams' Tom--except Morris dons lingerie and a feather boa. In an exaggerated drawl, he gives his excuses for the family's odd behavior. Dad, after all, ran off with a butcher. "I'm afraid the rest of the play will have to fend for itself."
As parody, it fends quite nicely. In "Menagerie," Laura was frail of body. Here, Luna (Carrie Ann Quinn) is short on wits. The mother, Shirley (Julia Silverman), is as pathetic as the original Amanda, though she relies less on her memories of a grand past than her hopes that the future will be better--once she marries off her daughter.
John Door--pronounced Doe--stumbles into this den of dysfunction as the unwitting gentleman caller. John (Scott Metzger) was Luna's high school obsession: football quarterback, drama star, class president. Too bad he lives with a nice boy named Robert.
Much of the humor is broad--Anna's hoop skirt flying up over her head, Shirley's liquor bottles stashed under every sofa cushion. Brizendine even manages to pull off playing Williams' autobiographical character Tom as a cross-dresser. But the best parts are in the details provided by playwright Sandey Grinn. Rather than "blue roses," Anna had the nickname "stolen plants." She'd missed school because of swollen glands. John and Anna's dance causes a fateful collision with Anna's favorite ceramic cow.
"Cacti and I" by Sally Rover, doesn't prove as successful. The idea--that a poor redneck in the Southwestern desert might make some money by selling a giant cactus to the Japanese--has some merits, but they get buried in the supporting characters' rantings.
Andre Nemec has a nice presence as Carl, the would-be cactus rustler. He mutters to himself, but is charming even as he wraps his girlfriend in twine to practice tackling a cactus. Unfortunately, Carl drifts from the center of attention as his girlfriend, Anna (Joanne McGee), and buddy, Mike (Dennis Gersten), take over. Here, Johanna Seigmann--who also directed "Ceramic Cow"--seems unable to rope in the rambling play. It gets as tangled in itself as a tumbleweed, winding itself tighter and tighter around a small point but making no progress. Worried about Carl, Mike and Anna whoop and holler in front of a kitschy shrine--but by that time we've seen Mike plead with the spirits twice.
Sgt. Rita (Mireille Morshead) has some hilarious moments as she guards the cacti in the state park. Her connection with these majestic plants is charming but wears thin.
"The Ceramic Cow" and "Cacti and I," T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends March 29. $15. (818) 788-9038.