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Often darkly funny, Dot can also sound as forlorn as Beckett's tramps when telling the younger Lucille that the empty lives they've spent on the porch of their small Texas town are "the best of nothing. Dot is ostensibly dispensing motherly advice to the younger Lucille — wearing a bathing suit, both to combat the heat and in a plea for attention, even if the only one noticing her is an old man.

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But it soon becomes clear that the addled Dot is collapsing the present into the past; in addressing Lucille, she's really talking to a younger version of herself. And while Dot's backward glance can be nostalgic, most of the time what she sees is a woman who thought herself stupid, married because she was desperate and angry at how things turned out. Under James Valcq's direction, Troy gives us all of that, as well as the rancid, life-curdling disappointment that goes with it.

Troy may have had Thursday's opening-night audience in stitches, but as is true with so many of her memorable Milwaukee roles, her humor is laced with despair. Dot jokes so she won't cry. One wants to cry for En's Lucille, buried in a newspaper as she tries to ignore Dot's rants. Lucille is mad at her domineering mother for controlling her life, but En also betrays the doubt that Dot has instilled: Maybe her mother is right. Maybe she truly is as limited as Dot claims. And maybe her efforts to break free are condemned to repeat Dot's history rather than rewrite it.

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The two sisters we meet in "Patio," the shorter and less successful one-act play that opens this twin bill, also feel trapped. But Jewel Troy and especially younger sister Pearl En are caricatures; too much of their story is expository backstory, involving a never-seen plot device of a man they loved and Pearl married.

It's hard to imagine why; Pearl is impossibly, unbelievably childish — except when she's given unearned epiphanies suggesting equally improbable insight. En appears less comfortable in this role; it's easy to see why. For tickets, visit thirdavenueplayhouse. about this production at TapMilwaukee. In this musical reprise of a justly renowned documentary about an eccentric, year-old mother and her year-old daughter, one sees a mix of love, resentment, insecurity and madness that bears a close resemblance to the stew that's simmering throughout "Porch.

A similar moment — similarly gut-wrenching, as presented by En — closes "Porch. Amy En: Will Lucille escape her mother, or become her? You can learn the answer by traveling to Sturgeon Bay and watching Lonely wives Milwaukee free adept handling of this role — challenging because so much of what Lucille feels must be conveyed through her face and her body language, as her mother rants and rages at the dying of the light.

En gets it all: Lucille's near-furious exasperation and resentment at her mother; the fear that for all she wants to move on she doesn't know how; and the accompanying sense that she'll fail if she tries, just as her mother failed before her. Stay Lonely wives Milwaukee free and Lucille becomes her mother; leave and she risks making the same mistakes her mother made, also thereby becoming her mother. What a choice; no wonder she can't decide. No wonder she is so despondent.

Her few manifestations of hope — and few attempts at a smile — die before they are born. Jacque Troy: The restless and unhappy title character in "Hedda Gabler" The bitter and angry cellist in "Duet for One" The lonely cafe owner in "Bus Stop" Troy has given these and many other memorable performances as a woman whose tough exterior belies all that's thereby tamped down, in women who are wounded, disappointed, lost or all three.

She is well cast here, giving us variations on this theme as both Jewel and especially Dot, while also proving as funny as I can recall her being on stage. Working on a shoestring budget and featuring modest production values, artistic directors Robert Boles and James Valcq choose good shows, make smart decisions involving casting and staging, and consequently deliver a consistently solid product. While one need not be vacationing in Door County this summer to justify a trip north to Third Avenue Playhouse, those of you who will be there anyway most certainly should consider adding such an excursion to your vacation itinerary.

Tickets can be purchased at thirdavenueplayhouse. Keep up with the art scene and trends in urban de with art and architecture critic Mary Louise Schumacher. Every week, you'll get the latest reviews, musings on architecture and her picks for what to do on the weekends. e-mail address above and click " Up Now! Need ideas for things to do in Milwaukee? Plan the perfect weekend and find drink specials with the Best of Brew Cityyour mobile guide to going out. Recommended Reading Blog: Books editor Jim Higgins highlights things worth reading, in print and online.

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Arts Theater Review. Credit: Heidi Hodges. May 20, May 20, 0. E-mail Newsletter Keep up with the art scene and trends in urban de with art and architecture critic Mary Louise Schumacher.

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