Three Feet Under

If you moved The Three Sisters to Pee-wee's Playhouse, it might resemble this. Ostensibly the sitting room of a rural pet mortuary, the treacherously raked set (Jason Adams, Alicia Hoge, Adam Kurtzman) is a riot of bright colors, big patterns, and interesting textures onto which characters, in an oddly birth-like fashion, sometimes arrive through a white fake-fur wall. It is to this family home that haiku poet Hildy Hildy (Patricia Scanlon) returns to visit her sister Pinky (Kate Flannery) and mother Tallulah (Joanna Cassidy), where the three then spend a great deal of time and energy complaining of being trapped. By the time the intermission-free show is over, you'll appreciate how they feel.

The character of Hildy Hildy, developed elsewhere by Scanlon and playwright Hugh Palmer, is that disturbing, overwrought type who is so funny in short bursts. After a while, though, the rolling eyes, the tortured delivery, the sheer intensity, begin to wear on the viewer. In this vehicle Hildy Hildy is surrounded by an entire family of off-center characters with a decidedly unhinged local cat lady (Colleen Kane) added for good measure. The only approachable character is Hildy's husband, Bob (Palmer), but, like Marilyn in The Munsters, he's defined primarily by what he isn't, which has limited appeal once you leave the 26-minute format. The unrelenting weirdness of it all, alleviated in no way by Taylor Negron's direction, leaves one exhausted.

Scanlon's character is of course the most developed. Her bit with a box of chocolates is inspired. Flannery has little to do but harp, though she does it quite well. How often can you hear about a $13.49 discrepancy, though? The source of all this angst is played in a surprisingly mild fashion by Cassidy. She has abdicated her characterization almost entirely to Ann Closs-Farley's delightfully overdone costumes. Pinky's husband, as realized by Michael Louden, consists of a speech impediment and a mullet. Kane, who displays a true flair for the pathetic, is the actor who comes out of this best as she's the only one we see just enough of--and not one moment more.