Stages' Tango dances around a serious subtext

As Cavale, though, Weathersby is wry and witty. "I'm sick of telling stories about people killing themselves," she tells Slim. "It makes me jealous." Costume designer Windy Everist has outfitted Cavale as a thrift-store glamour girl in a black mesh petticoat and a black velvet bustier -- a marked contrast to Slim's red union suit. The elegance makes a lovely sort of sense, because while Slim makes fun of her improper grammar, it's Cavale who's well-read and philosophical.

The direction succeeds in the small moments of stage business: Lowe pulls Weathersby up off the floor and in one swift move has her legs wrapped around his waist. A lobster man (Alexander Marchand) comes to the door to deliver (what else?) lobster, and Lowe poses languidly, waiting for Cavale to come back from the bathroom. A fine sense of timing holds the production together, and the actors' rapport pays off in the trickier moments, like when Cavale explains her likeness to Baudelaire.

It's a bit ironic, and perhaps unavoidable, that the weaker character in this play is the one Shepard modeled after himself. Cowboy Mouth is Patti Smith's play, and Weathersby fits the role well, combining a world-weariness with surprising charm. The same could be said of the production, especially of Weathersby's mysterious, darkly inspiring Cavale.

Tango runs through November 17 at Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway, Suite 101, 527-0220. Cowboy Mouth runs Wednesday nights through November 27 at Last Concert Cafe, 1403 Nance, 788-0671.

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