Michele Lepsche's "Roller Derby Queen" is as messy, cluttered and overflowing as the home of her central character. And that's a good thing. Family dysfunction is seldom orderly and this play about a batty, bitter mother and her two daughters communicates that truth loud and clear.
Nancy Marvy is compelling as brash, lively Florence, a woman with an oversized personality and a house packed to the gills with junk. Katie Phillips' set conjures this environment with an impressive conglomeration of thrift-store wares, the actors confined to pathways picked out between the stacks. When oldest daughter Ellen (played with fierce energy by Carolyn Pool) insists that Florence move into assisted living, a battle royal ensues, laying bare a lifetime of hurts and secrets.
The issues are serious, but Lepsche infuses the play with laughter, as well. Raye Birk's performance as a Vietnam vet who is one of Florence's oldest friends is a comic delight, while an on-again/off-again courtship between Florence's younger daughter (Sara Marsh) and her earnest boyfriend (Andy Rocco Kraft) provides a quirkily humorous subplot.
Lepsche has created an appealing set of characters and director Matt Sciple capably balances the play's tone to reflect both the darkness and the light of their relationships. While the first act feels overlong and the ending a tad too easily won, the work is a bright beginning for this new playwright.
Lisa Brock is a local theater critic.
Roller Derby Queen
Who: Written by Michele Lepsche. Directed by Matt Sciple. Presented by SOS Theater.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wed.-Sat. & Mon., 3 p.m. Sun. Ends Nov. 26.
Where: Gremlin Theatre, 550 Vandalia St., St. Paul.
Tickets: $12-$25. sostheater.com.