Blue Before Morning

Fairness compels me to report that Kate McGovern's Blue Before Morning met with a standing ovation accompanied by enthusiastic whooping. Honesty compels me to state that I can neither explain nor condone this phenomenon, though it did send me back over my notes, just to make sure the whole thing irritated me as much as I remembered. Sure enough, there in my notebook were the following scribbled phrases: "two grating women," "deeply annoying," "petulant screeching," and "less-than-riveting domestic squabbles."

I guess it's our differences that make us special.

McGovern's tale is a kind of road movie for the stage in which the desperate, 19-year-old Ava (Kether Donohue) convinces the easygoing cab driver Jerry (Chris McKinney), who must be the last New York-born hack in the entire city, to drive her to her mother's house in South Carolina. (It's hard enough getting them to take you to the Bronx.) Along the way they pick up a very pregnant, very angry hitchhiker named Ella (Jenny Maguire) who has just ditched her mechanic boyfriend Steve (Flaco Navaja). Their 12-hour road trip is broken up with flashbacks that fill out Jerry's backstory and reveal the girls' unhappy domestic lives.

Frustratingly, the characters' motivations aren't established until close to the end, so we spend much of the play's running time wondering why Ava couldn't have just taken the next bus, and why a stable-seeming fellow like Jerry could let himself be talked into such a cockamamie scheme. Ella's issues are never really cleared up: Why is she so all-fired anxious to leave her sweet, responsible boyfriend who genuinely wants to take care of her and the baby?

Jerry is a fairly bland character, but at least his unassuming niceness provides some respite from Ava's sullen brattiness and Ella's inexplicable rage. The opening-night audience clearly responded to the emotionally charged situations and the edgy humor of Maguire's performance, but this was one road trip that had me asking, "Are we there yet?"

Presented by Terranova Collective at DR2 Theatre, 103 E. 15th St., NYC. Oct. 19-Nov. 8. Wed.-Mon., 8 p.m. (212) 239-6200, (800) 432-7250, or www.telecharge.com.