Loosely based on the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, Doug Cooney and Karen Stephens’s Tom & Sally is a discomforting and fascinating look at our conflicted country and one of its more hypocritical and philosophically marooned founding fathers. Watching it is a bit like reading a John Grisham novel. You’re riveted by the story, but at the same time you keep stumbling over awkward phrases, tasteless passages, and vaguely as well as overtly sexist points of view. Despite its dependence on cliches, the work is intriguingly structured–part dance, part performance art, part experimental theater. Some of the dance bits are shallowly postmodern, and others a collage of hip-hop and who knows what. But it doesn’t matter because the writing carries us along. Stephens, who plays Sally Hemings, is an absolutely wonderful performer. Randolph Street Gallery, 756 N. Milwaukee, 666-7737. May 19 and 20: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $10.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Tom Mannarino.