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MUD, CollaborAction Theatre Company, at Footsteps Theatre Company. Maria Irene Fornes's plays are never what they seem. Even apparently naturalistic dramas like Abingdon Square also work as critiques of history and allegories of gender relations. It takes a savvy theater company to mine the riches she buries in her scripts.

CollaborAction is not that company. Their decently acted and competently directed production of Mud has no second level. Instead director Anthony Moseley and the cast spend all their time exploring the surface of the story, about an ambitious but poorly educated hillbilly who tries to break away from her lazy, do-nothing boyfriend and find a future with a (slightly) better educated man from town.

Not that the story alone isn't diverting, especially when the lead is played by an actress like Fanny Madison, who never resorts to easy white-trash cliches. (A temptation Julian Bailey--who seems to think he's performing a stage version of The Beverly Hillbillies--should have resisted as well.) But a literal-minded production, especially one as innocent of male-female power games as this one, can never play the deeper tones of Fornes's work. --Jack Helbig

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