‘MUD’ at Cutting Ball

Capping off a four-day blast of powerful theater, I got to see Mud by Maria Irene Fornes at The Cutting Ball Theater on Sunday afternoon. Mud seems to be the one Fornes play that everybody knows; I guess it’s the one that gets assigned in theater classes. Sort of like everyone who’s heard of William Carlos Williams knows The Red Wheelbarrow.

Mud is taut, raw, powerful, menacing, tense and surprising. It takes place in what we presume is Appalachia (or maybe we remember that from reading it way back when; the actors don’t actually speak with any accents), in a small kitchen where Mae irons and tries to turn her life around. But she’s constantly thwarted, first by the dim Lloyd, then by the slightly-less-dim Henry.

The language is crisp and spare. And the staging is equally simple: one gorgeous set, just a few simple sound effects, and a theater oriented in an unusual way to bring home the claustrophobia of this little rural cabin.

Fornes is one of the best playwrights out there, and inspired one of my favorite writers/dramaturgs, the amazing Migdalia Cruz. If you don’t know her work, this is the play to see.

Mud by Maria Irene Fornes at The Cutting Ball Theater, 277 Taylor St, San Francisco, through Feb 8. Tickets at brownpapertickets.com.

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