The Wake of Jamey Foster, Footsteps Theatre Company, at the Factory Theater. When the corpse comes off as the luckiest one at the funeral, we know the survivors are grieving more than the loss of their kin. And when the playwright is Beth Henley, we know we can expect some ambivalent attitudes toward the deceased among the mourners--after the gin and Jack Daniel's begin to flow, anyway--as well as some eccentric methods of easing their feelings. Throwing Easter candy into the coffin, for example, or climbing the trellis outside the widow's bedroom to sing her lullabies.
Henley's plays are less stories than explorations of personality; the characters populating The Wake of Jamey Foster are her usual assortment of deep-south cuckoos: self-righteous husbands, reproductively frustrated wives, hard-drinking hoydens with low self-esteem, matrons still unsure of their romantic destinies, teenage girls creepy enough to make Carrie look like Felicity, and adolescent boys who love 'em just the way they are.
The capable cast in this Footsteps production deliver uniformly sturdy performances under the direction of Jean Adamak; special praise is due Aaron H. Alpern, whose love-struck Brocker Slade hints at an inner life the character is not quite ready to share. In a play where everybody spills their guts with no restraint or compunction, such reticence first piques our curiosity, then elicits our sympathy. --Mary Shen Barnidge