Who Loves You Jimmie Orrio
Reviewed by David Kashimba

Marin Theatre is offering some exciting prospects to Bay Area Theatre with its new Second Stage Series, featuring fully staged productions for new voices in theatre. This is an encouraging development particularly because Theatre Artists of Marin, which was dedicated to premiering new plays, had to close its doors over two years ago.

Who Loves You Jimmie Orrio? is a great opener for Marin Theatre’s intimate 99 seat Sali Lieberman Studio Theatre. The play, written by Cheryldee Huddleston, has the southern flavor of this San Francisco Bay Area playwright’s roots. Set in a rundown Tennessee trailer park in the 1960s, Huddleston’s characters are what short story writer Flannery O’Connor would call “poor white trash.”

Jimmie Orrio (Chad Fisk) is just released from prison for shooting a cowboy who abused his horse. Interesting assortments of women live in the trailer park. Melinda (Stacy Ross) is a woman who rarely speaks and always wears the same white nightgown all day and all night every day of the year. Her mother, Jessica (Roberta Callahan), is a sex-crazed woman who will proposition any man who walks by. Their 12-year-old neighbor girl, J.T., has a special understanding of Melinda that no other member of the trailer park shares. It’s an understanding that comes from simple things like brushing each other’s hair or watching the stars together at night.

Only a stranger passing through shares some insights into Melinda’s silent world. Leonard, enticed into Jessica’s bed by a piece of rhubarb pie, provides an outside perspective into Melinda’s hidden possibilities.

There is a dark humor to this play shared by other southern writers such as Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, but it lacks the grotesque edge that these writers share. Melinda shows the potential for change without the need for some catastrophic event to push her on like death or violence or the physical “stroke of good fortune” that has to shake O’Connor’s characters before they see the light and open to change.

While Huddlestone’s characters boarder on southern stereotypes, an excellent cast fleshes the characters out in a way that makes you sure you’ve met them all before. Indeed, they might even be members of your own family.

For tickets or more information call (415) 388-5208 or visit www.marintheatre.org.

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