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Joined at the Head

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Joined at the Head, Frump Tucker Theatre Company, at the Organic Theater Company Greenhouse, Lab Theater. Radiating intelligence, hard-eyed compassion, and wonder at the malleability and resilience of life, Catherine Butterfield's splendid 1992 play, staged with consummate sympathy by Kay Martinovich, is a real find. Few works have suggested so eloquently the felt but unspoken ways we touch one another.

Maggie Mulroney is a successful 38-year-old novelist who's unexpectedly reunited with two high school classmates: Jim, an old flame, and his wife Maggy, who's dying of cancer. As she observes their love, not without envy, Maggie wonders how her life took its more public path. Her narration of their story presents her with a contradictory task: she means to tell the story as she feels it but, hoping to deny the writer's typical solipsism, also to reduce herself to the "backdrop" of Maggy's courageous, doomed struggle. Yet Maggy, injecting her own wry commentary, critiques the fiction writer's "over the top" characterizations. The truth--which most playwrights pretend is indistinguishable from the stage representation--lies somewhere between the two Maggies. The final scene belongs to both women, as Maggy tells her reclaimed friend how she won her life's great joy--Jim--by pretending to be Maggie.

As funny and forceful as the supple script requires, Frump Tucker's staging is beautifully anchored in Ruth Farrimond's mercurial, invigoratingly complex Maggie; Bibi Tinsley's uncloyingly noble Maggy; and Chuck Quinn's Jim, whose inarticulate devotion almost makes up for the horror of the cancer that takes his wife. --Lawrence Bommer

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