The night I saw the show, Hughes' audience was largely friends and longtime supporters. Effortlessly turning Dixon Place's spacious theater into a hearth, with only a music stand and a cushioned chair as a set, Hughes commands by being comfortable, playing catch up with her girlfriends. She evokes a shy middle-aged woman whenever she softens her hands and wrings her hands. But her resting position is still knees bent and face forward, like an athlete preparing to pounce. She wears and wields her history as a mark of authority; every cynical glance reminds us that she has seen some things, as have we.
What has always been rewarding about Hughes' work is its intelligence, its writerly eloquence, and its grownup sophistication, all of which are in abundance here. In a story that captures the heart of "The Dog and Pony Show," Hughes, sitting by a river while halfheartedly contemplating suicide after the 2004 presidential election, is brought out of her reverie by a nuzzle from one of her pets. The animal's comfort is neither resolution nor new understanding but the gentle reminder of more living to be done.
Presented by and at Dixon Place 161A Chrystie St., NYC. June 3–18. Fri. and Sat., 7:30 p.m.
(212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111, www.theatermania.com, or www.dixonplace.org.