IMAGINING BRAD, Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company. In life, we play the hand we’re dealt. And in this engaging drama, Peter Hedges–best known for the screenplay What’s Eating Gilbert Grape–uncovers the survival tactics of two very different women.

Unfolding over nine short scenes, the play begins simply enough. Dana Sue Kay–a loud, nosy, but well-meaning southern Christian–tries to draw conversation and intimate data out of a mousy newcomer known only as Brad’s Wife. In church circles it’s called “fellowship.” Who is this husband, Brad? Why has no one seen him in church? Why are there no photographs? Each scene peels another layer from these and other questions. Brad doesn’t go to church. There are no photographs of Brad. Brad can’t write. Brad has no feet. The disclosures continue, revealing uncomfortable truths, movie-of-the-week violence, and the most curious of love stories.

With a story this centered around the details of people’s lives, the characters must be compelling. Nora Herold as Dana Sue Kay and Heather Graff as Brad’s Wife absolutely fill the bill. Graff’s pixieish appearance and feathery voice convey a sympathetic vulnerability–a great contrast to Herold, who’s authentically southern in look and attitude (though her drawl is the type you hear only in the movies). The connection between them–both are reprising their roles from Mary-Arrchie’s 1992 production–is what really energizes the play. –Kim Wilson