Barbara's Blue Kitchen

Lamb's Theatre. By Lori Fischer. Dir. Martha Banta. With Fischer and Scott Wakefield.

WALKER TEXAS RANGER Fischer gets moving.

WALKER TEXAS RANGER Fischer gets moving. Photograph: Sandy Underwood

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5

In many ways, the Lamb’s Theatre on 44th Street, now about to close, was just too darling to survive. Lambs? At midtown rates? We send ’em to the slaughter. It’s appropriate, therefore, that the little critter’s last production is something cozy and small-town, a one-woman (with DJ) show about the sort of down-home diner that the big city would never suffer to live.

Lori Fischer is Barbara, but her empathy with her many customers is such that she plays them, too. Her Southern accent thicker than Texas toast, Barbara dishes out concern along with her banana pudding, spreading the word about a calico kitten that wants adopting, or arranging rescues for good ol’ boys who have run out of gas. Understatedly, loss is a major ingredient for almost all of Barbara’s patrons—with a walker, she plays a biddy whose husband popped off after some bad spinach dip; in a headband, she becomes a spacey waitress hiding from a psychotic husband. And if sometimes these patient sufferers noodle into a homespun melody (accompanied by Wakefield on guitar), why then, they are welcome to do so.

A dead ringer for Meryl Streep, Fischer manages to tread the dangerous line between tender and cloying, strumming a bit on our heartstrings while never tipping into sentimentality. Her plangent voice and self-puncturing humor have just enough tartness to cut right through the sweet. In fact, it’s a perfectly judged balance of flavors—exactly what you’d hope for in theatrical comfort food. — Helen Shaw