Presented by Exiled Theatre
By Sarah J. Mann
Directed by James Wilkinson
Review by Travis Manni
(Boston, MA) Anybody can pull off a little black dress. Sarah J. Mann’s She Looks Good in Black proved that only a few can make it look connivingly sexy.
After the death of her husband, Shea (Cailin Doran) finds that the window’s life truly suits her. Clad in a tight black dress, and a pair of matching heels that refuse to quit, Shea can’t seem to convince herself to change out of the sleek number. At the memorial service, attendants gawk at the explicit interspecies sex act paintings that Groom (John Kinde), Shea’s late husband, left behind, while Shea chuckles at the dismal turnout, certain that the mourners are her husband’s gay lovers.
While visiting Groom’s gravesite, Shea meets and falls for a dim-witted gravedigger, Sweet (Alexander Rankine), whom she finds a form of comfort in. Meanwhile, Art (Michael Kelly) returns after attending the memorial and offers Shea a large sum of money for her late husband’s collection. All of this while Beau (Colin Colford), Shea’s brother, watches from the sidelines with a sideways eye and judgmental gaze.
The set served simultaneously as apartment and graveyard. It was a perfect juxtaposition that gave life to the plot and served as a reminder throughout the show that death was the lurking, overarching theme despite the audience’s laughter.
Cailin Doran is both stunning and tragic, refusing to play the role as a victim of circumstances, but rather, a woman who knows what she wants and knows how to get it, unapologetically so. Shea’s desperate loneliness is what makes her so relatable, and its hard not to feel sympathetic towards her odd display of grief. Alexander Rankine as the gravedigger plays the role with the mystery and morbidity that you’d expect, but with a warm kindness that was a welcome surprise.
Where the play faltered was its dramatic conclusion and the character of Beau. While Colin Colford played the role fine enough, it was hard for me to get past the fake southern accent, which did nothing to improve the poor development of his character and general dislikeability, a bad combination that creates a rather frustrating character. Everything Beau did was riddled with scrutiny and conditional love, which fuels how unlikeable he is, and in the end it becomes apparent he’s simply a plot device. And while the end was quite dramatic, the actions that characters carry out felt unearned, which made the plays foundation of realism fall rather flat.
Despite its couple of faults, She Looks Good in Black is a good dark comedy that delves into the psyche of a woman scorned and mistreated. Its strong female lead and humor create for an intriguing show, despite its conclusion which was purely used for shock value.
She Looks Good in Black runs through October, 2 at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by clicking here.