Southern novelist Carson McCullers was known for her unblinking portraits of flawed characters’ ignorance and selfishness. Her literary tradition continues as small-town longings spin out of control in Edward Albee’s adaption of her novella “The Ballad of the Sad Café.”
Miss Amelia (Simone Roos) is an entrepreneur/tyrant who is feared by the locals. Cousin Lyman (Aaron Snook), a hunchback dwarf, arrives and she takes him in, much to the townspeoples’ surprise. They live happily together until Amelia’s husband Marvin (Philip Winston) is released from prison, upsetting their home forever.
Signal’s production sweetly captures the sad nostalgia of squandered love. Director Ronan Marra keeps the pacing gentle and languid, but never boring. Snook makes his role’s physical demands look both painful and effortless; Vincent Lonergan’s narration is graciously regretful. Jason Adams, Elizabeth Bagby and Nathan Drackett’s traditional accompaniment flavors the show with a mournful simplicity that resonates long after the show ends. (Lisa Buscani)
“The Ballad of the Sad Café” runs at Signal Ensemble Theatre at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 773-347-1350. Through September 12.