It's difficult to imagine where Barrie Cole learned to write plays. While most young playwrights work overtime to excise any hint of ambiguity from their scripts, writing as though television sitcoms were the pinnacle of literary achievement in Western culture, Cole revels in strangeness. She sets the hour-long Something Made Up in the apartment of a woman who spends every waking minute reading a book on ventriloquism and a man who tries to convince himself he's a shaman by mixing kitchen spices in a bowl. Although they have nothing in common, occupy separate sides of the stage, and interact as though they were strangers, the two have rented a daughter in order to practice being parents. The girl spends most of her time lying slumped in a corner in her pajamas, occasionally rousing herself to insist that her would-be parents sedate themselves or to report that a hermaphrodite appeared in a dream and bade her make a radish. But with ingenious subtlety, Cole transforms her collection of seeming non sequiturs into a mesmerizing meditation on family dynamics. Director Eric Ziegenhagen gives this Penlight Theater production a gentle, sensual feel, making Cole's weirdness seem downright cozy. By the time these three misfits learn to like one another, in the ridiculous but endearing penultimate scene, Cole has established just how human her peculiar world can be. Wing & Groove Theatre, 19351/2 W. North, 312-409-2674. Through February 3: Fridays-Saturdays, 8 PM. $10.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Eric Ziegenhagen.