by Michael Meigs
These pralines come in a very handsome box. Peter Sukovaty's design for the interior of the Lucky Spot dance hall in rural 1930's Lousiana is graceful and meticulously detailed, the lighting is rich and subtle, and the music that accompanies and accentuates the action includes dance music and even a couple of Hank Williams numbers. It's just before Christmas, but you can almost smell the Louisiana marshes when those doors at deep center stage swing open.
Playwright Henley creates a pair of strong opposed egos at the heart of her piece: short-spoken tough-guy gambler Reed Hooker who won this dubious property in a card game and Sue Jack Tiller at Angola Penitentiary, his wife, set for early holiday release from her sentence of three years for throwing downstairs the woman she caught in Hooker's bed. James Hawkins as Hooker is a brooding presence, a rock out of place in the marshland. Yesenia Garcia as Sue Jack is the vital force of this piece of theatre, creating a complex, attractive character bruised by life and indifference but capable of warmth and joy. Henley tantalizes us with these two and the grim gap that subsists between them. Call 'em angels with dirty faces; we know that they've been living hard lives and we want to see the grand opening bring them together again and make them happy.