Catherine Trieschmann’s “Crooked” is about Laney (Rae Gray) the precocious fourteen year old daughter of Elise (Tara Mallen) a burnt out social worker who’s moved them back to her home town in Mississippi.
Elise is an atheist feminist who only moves back into deep red territory because she inherited a house from her father. Laney’s father, Elise’s husband has been lost in the most tragic way. He suffers from severe mental illness to the point that his original personality is irretrievable. Mother and daughter both ache at this absence.
Laney suffers from dystonia, a condition that gives her a crooked back, which combined with her Wisconsin upbringing makes her an outcast in her new town. Laney quickly befriends another misfit, sixteen year old Maribel. (Hannah Gomez)
Maribel is a devout evangelical Christian. She’s an outcast because she’s overweight and because she was homeschooled as a child and now must take remedial classes. Laney is initially put off by the religion part but begins to feel a deep, possibly sexual attraction to Maribel, who she quickly sees as a kindred spirit despite their differences.
Maribel and Elise, polar opposites on the subject of religion, eventually form something of a bond, which brings Laney’s insecurity and longing for her absent father to the surface. The relationships are also complicated by Laney’s penchant for telling self serving lies.
This show has a lot of wonderful qualities, from the witty dialogue to the poignant performances. Gomez in particular is so mercilessly heartbreaking that I became angry with her for making me sad on purpose.
The show is marred by an absurdly abrupt ending. Not that a play like this can or should be wrapped up neatly in a bow but what resolution there is seems terribly rushed and forced.
Nonetheless, this is a thrillingly well-rendered coming of age story.