Night, Mother, set in the rural South, is a realistic and moving drama centered on suicide. The clock is ticking; it won't be long until Thelma Cates' (Barbara Bradshaw) orderly life will unwind. The day begins like any other. Thelma crochets quietly in her housedress and slippers, eating snowballs; her caregiver, grown daughter Jessie (Nanique Gheridan), bustles about in her everyday sweater seemingly doing chores. The dull conversation takes an odd turn when Jessie asks for Daddy's gun. Thelma, thinking no more of it, offers its location. When Jessie calmly announces her intention to kill herself, Thelma dismisses it as a bad joke, but soon reality hits. As Jessie methodically lists instructions on everything from how to order from the A&P to use of the washing machine, Thelma frantically demands answers and implores Jessie to change her mind. An in-depth and truthful conversation develops over hot cocoa, and long-kept secrets are revealed. But Jessie's failed marriage, epileptic fits, criminal-minded son, loss of her dead father, and problems with her mother are too much to take. Her life has spun out of control, and the only thing she can do is stop it, shut it down, turn it off like the radio when there's nothing on that she wants to listen to. Bradshaw and Gheridan masterfully ride the swells of emotion. Gheridan harnesses her feelings as she fills candy jars, puts pots and pans away. Even when the truth appears to overcome her, Gheridan keeps to character, becoming emotional only in well-chosen moments. Bradshaw slides seamlessly from humor and sarcasm to anger and rage, using every avenue to show her thought processes. (Through December 5 at Palm Beach Dramaworks, 322 Banyan Blvd., West Palm Beach, 561-514-4042.) -- Rachel Galvin
Hello Dolly! centers on the prodigious skills of Yonkers matchmaker Dolly Levi (Jodi-Lynne Sylvester), for whom meddling is a career choice. Dolly interferes in everybody's life, including two disgruntled clerks who leave Yonkers to go to New York to find adventure. Brance Cornelius as one of them has a few good moments, and Tyler Fish as the other is consistently adorable as a naive young man on the town. Kerry Sensenbach seems natural as their mean-spirited employer. Danielle Tabino, as the boss' daughter, adds comic effect with her whiny voice. Jessie Alagna as Ernestina Money also has some laughs with her hard-on-the-eyes outfit and piggish decorum. But the show belongs to Sylvester, who has a series of riveting monologues, one to her late husband and one to the audience. Her voice is often too high-pitched, but overall, her songs are powerful. She fits like a glove into her character and her glamorous attire. Moreover, she enjoys herself, which translates into energy for the whole cast. (Through January 2 at the Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs, 954-344-7765.)
Sleeping Beauty, set in swinging mod England, includes full-frontal nudity, transvestites, three-way orgies, LSD, rock 'n' roll, and go-go dancers. Not for the kiddies. The craziness begins with Enid Wetwhistle (Erynn Dalton), whose wild dancing and miniskirt shock fashion mogul Sebastian Lorre (Jim Gibbons) and his sidekick, the rotund Ms. Thicke (Jeff Holmes). At first, Lorre wants Enid to take a "personality suppressant." But when Lorre's treasonous sketch artist, Fauna (Jim Sweet), convinces cosmopolitan buyer Anthea (Melissa McSherry) that Fauna's designs outstrip Lorre's, Sebastian has a change of heart. Deciding mod is in, he chooses Enid as his "it" girl. But the transformational high-life makes his new protégée bail -- and Sebastian vows revenge. Fauna and Ian take a confused Enid in and rebuild her career (complete with acrobatic sex and topless photo shoots). Gibbons' light-in-the-loafers swagger and face-scrunching snarl add comic effect. Sweet throws one-liners around with ease and maintains character, whether smoking, meditating, palm reading, or discussing reincarnation. (In repertory with Vampire Lesbians of Sodom through December 19 at Sol Theatre Project, 1140 NE Flagler Dr., Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-6555, www.soltheatre.com.)
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