In Failure: A Love Story
, by Philip Dawkins (a playwright with an increasing buzz about him), the grandiose themes of love, death and the transient nature of life are tackled on a minimalist stage and in a way both practical and magical, according to Leslie Swackhamer, a professor at Sam Houston State who is once again returning to direct at Stages Repertory Theatre. This is the story of the three Fail sisters, whose immigrant parents make it to America only to die in a car wreck in their new hometown of Chicago. Each of the daughters is loved, and lost, in turn by Mortimer Mortimer (yes, that’s his name), played by David Matranga. Each daughter is distinctive and special, and all three will be played by Courtney James (previously In the Next Room…or the vibrator play
along with Matranga and directed by Swackhamer). Set in the late 1920s, the play includes music of the time (“Let Me Call You Sweetheart”) as well as instruments rarely seen anymore (the melodeon, the harmonium).
Despite the deaths, Swackhamer says the story is really about how people can embrace life. The play runs anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours — they haven’t quite narrowed that down yet; it’ll depend in part on how many songs and dances they toss in, Swackhamer says. At a certain point, all the actors turn into clocks, she says. A gramophone is conjured up by a person blowing into a horn, while a bright green scarf becomes a parrot. “How do I do a car wreck onstage with no car? How does somebody swim across Lake Michigan onstage?” she asks. “This playwright trusts the audience and invites them to use their imagination.”
7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. 3201 Allen Parkway. For information, call 713‑527‑0123 or visit stagestheatre.com. $19 to $54.
Wednesdays, Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Jan. 22. Continues through Feb. 16, 2014