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‘Belfast Blues’ a wee but elegant solo show

Special to The Times

A particular thrill accompanies the discovery of outstanding ability, and this sensation attends the Virtual Theatre Project presentation of “Belfast Blues” at the Black Dahlia Theatre. Writer-performer Geraldine Hughes’ autobiographical reverie, though small-scaled, is thoroughly satisfying, the most elegant solo performance work seen locally since Tim Miller’s “Body Blows.”

Hughes, a pint-sized morph of Margaret Lockwood and Emily Watson, with more than a drop o’ Lucille Ball, eschews the obvious in her account of growing up in war-torn Belfast and the American “fillum” role that changed her life.

Submerging omnipresent horrors within workaday incidents, she draws from vast resources of humor and character to create a free-form collage whose restraint doubles its impact.

Hughes’ technique, juggling multiple personas between stylized aspects of herself, is immaculate. The depictions of industry veteran George Schaefer, neighborhood fixtures Eddie and Margaret (a Gaelic sitcom ready for taping) and her loving parents are especially memorable.

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The same is true of her writing, which reveals a mint-fresh voice. Whether placing Young Geraldine in scandalous conflict with the deity, or pitting Mum against Dad over whether Debbie Reynolds is a suitable baby name, Hughes has the word thing down cold. Director Charles Haid knowingly frames this breakout talent, fusing the ace contributions of Jonathan Christman (sets and lighting) and Jonathan Snipes (sound) to Hughes’ virtuosity with sleek expertise.

There are fleeting discrepancies and repetitions, plus a questionable intermission. These, however, are quibbles -- “Belfast Blues” may be wee, but it packs a potent wallop.

*

‘Belfast Blues’

Where: Black Dahlia Theatre, 5453 Pico Blvd., L.A.

When: Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.

Ends: Feb. 23

Price: $20

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Contact: (323) 856-4200, Ext. 24

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes


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