Written by local playwright Bill Gibson, Storm finds car salesman T. Texas Lord (Alex Brooks) gearing up for a congressional run in the late '60s. His campaign comes undone when his well-meaning wife Trixie (Jennifer Renee Lee) invites two huddled hippies in from a grisly snowstorm. Plenty of mostly obvious stabs at the family's evangelical agenda follow, with the local reverend (Clint Johnson) urging Trixie to bring these heathens to the Lord (pun apparently intended) while family patriarch Paw Paw (Brad Rudy) loudly protests her hospitality to "negras."
For the first hour, Storm plays like a big-haired Southern comedy of bad manners, but in its second act the action denigrates from social satire into full-on soap opera. Turns out the drifters, Moonbeam (Laine Binder) and Sun & Tranquility (Byron Marc), are actually grifters with an uncanny insight into the family's sordid past.
While the playwright shows a real talent for one-liners, director Barbara Cole struggles to balance the play's serious undertones (infidelity, racism, greed) with its slapstick. Brooks, probably a bit too young to play Texas, still handles the role with admirable conviction, while Lee makes the conflicted Trixie the play's most engaging presence.
Gibson, who began writing the show years before Dubya took D.C., may not have intended Storm to directly satirize the Bush family quagmire, but comparisons seem obligatory given today's political climate. In the end both the Lords and their guests come off as equally despicable, and the only possibly sympathetic character, Trixie, eventually loses us in an exceedingly violent conclusion. The show's indictment of conservative -- and liberal -- hypocrisy rumbles through like a noisy thunderhead, but leaves a somewhat indecipherable mess in its wake.
The Lord's Miraculous Storm, part of the Playwrights Repertory Theatre's Festival of New Plays, runs in repertory with Pasquales Tamales and Farang through Aug. 31. Days and times vary. $10. Burlington Road Theater, 1804 N. Decatur Road. 770-569-2148.