A&E » Theater Review

Guise and dolls

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You might say that Randall White's Normal is militantly inclusive. The 11 characters written and performed by White include an 8-year-old boy, a socialite soccer mom, a fellow with cerebral palsy, a "registered restorative dance therapist" and "a cross-addicted adult-child lesbian of color." Speaking in so many different voices, White can be more shrill and less funny than you'd like, but Normal has enough laughs and epiphanies that the touring play from Dallas' Abbetuck Productions doesn't overstay its welcome.
Many of White's monologues have the quality of preaching to the converted -- literally in the case of the reverend who gives a sermon on how strictly the Bible should be interpreted. Of the characters, the 8-year-old is the only one who doesn't allude to homosexuality directly or obliquely. Kristofer, an acerbic makeup artist, gets in digs about gays in the military, family values, gay marriage and breast implants. A computer hacker redistributes the earnings of his father's company to cultural institutions, shifting donations from the Boy Scouts to the Matthew Shepard foundation.

When Normal isn't establishing its PC cred, it goes for pathos as characters recall personal tragedies, but the monologues tend to be too short to build to very deep emotions.

White hits some hilarious notes, especially as the apoplectic Texan ranting against Texas and his daughter's lifestyle choice. But Normal's nicest moments are the softer ones that don't aim so hard for the funny bone or the tear ducts. When he portrays an elderly veteran rhapsodizing at the Picadilly Cafeteria, a melancholy Midwestern businessman on the make and a Latina lesbian addressing her AA meeting, White -- and his audience -- get to take a much-appreciated breath.Normal runs through Aug. 18 at the 14th Street Playhouse, 173 14th St. Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. $15-$25. 877-946-9997 (toll-free). www.normaltheplay.com.

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