GRANDMOTHER IN FOUR ACTS, the dusky woman, and excuse me, what are you?, at the Famous Door Theatre Company. Any of these three one-woman shows could easily have devolved into yet another “poor little me” whimper, but writer-performers Lisa Wax, Judith Greer, and Donna Jay Fulks all acknowledge that life’s sorrows are fundamentally ridiculous and that good-humored irony is the best defense against despair. Sure, it’s annoying to have strangers always guessing at one’s ethnic origins. Sure, Wild Women With the Blues are often misunderstood. And sometimes one is doomed to be the family Cinderella no matter how hard one tries to please. But one might as well laugh–or even look on the bright side, as Wax does in Excuse Me, What Are You?, speculating on the plea for kinship inherent in curiosity about her ancestry.

Monologues with several elements can run into problems, however, as audiences are forced to reorient themselves with each change–a hazard compounded by the addition of other potentially distracting theatrical elements. Wax integrates these successfully, but Greer’s poems and songs in The Dusky Woman suffer from accompaniment by an obviously unrehearsed pianist. Fulks, thankfully, sticks with uncluttered solo-voice storytelling in Grandmother in Four Acts. Though none of these pieces can be considered a milestone in the career of the artist, three of them for the price of one is a bargain however you look at it.

–Mary Shen Barnidge