Amidst countless boxes of Pop-Tarts, at least five bowling trophies, and a refrigerator containing nothing but can upon can of Shasta, Sugar Ducharme (Erika Rolfsrud) carefully places the record needle atop her LP of Dreamboat Annie by Heart and begins rocking out to "Magic Man." What is this foolishness? It's Trout Stanley, a new play by Claudia Dey that looks and sounds like The Heidi Chronicles by way of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Sugar is trapped -- trapped in her house, trapped in her relationship with her domineering sister Grace (Kelly McAndrew), even trapped in her dead mother's baggy brown tracksuit. In fact, Sugar has decided there's nothing to live for and is ready to end it all when a stranger named Trout Stanley (Warren Sulatycky) shows up unexpectedly at her door and talks her down.
Trout has troubles of his own: His unloving parents died before telling him the reason for his name and he's in desperate need of some closure. As one might imagine, two uncomfortable people find themselves more comfortable together. None of this sits well with Grace, who, while more functional than her sister, still wants love from her (and Trout).
Director Jen Wineman embraces the oddity of the script without sacrificing sincerity: When Sugar looks longingly at pictures of deformed children in an old medical textbook, it seems neither creepy nor cloying, merely sad. Tim Mackabee's set grounds the goofiness in ridiculous objects scattered across the room, like a Thighmaster hanging on the TV antenna.
Dey's warm-hearted, left-of-center characters have a vocabulary and a sense of humor all their own, making Trout Stanley funny and surprising. ("Do you like martial arts?" asks Trout tentatively. "No," admits Sugar. He sighs. "Me neither. I find them sudden.") Her remarkable play dances between high camp and bold sincerity, laughing all the way.
Presented by Renaissant Arts
at the Culture Project, 45 Bleecker St., NYC.
May 22-June 11. Thu.-Sun., 8 p.m. (Sun., June 11, performance is at 2 p.m.)
(212) 868-4444 or www.smarttix.com.
Casting by Cindi Rush Casting.