Local writer Michelle Embree's Hand Over Fist won the seventh annual Saints and Sinners Literary Festival playwrighting contest and is receiving an excellent production at Marigny Theatre.
A blurb for Embree's novel Manstealing For Fat Girls describes it as off-kilter. Hand Over Fist is a sort of off-kilter soap opera about a group of bohemian friends hatching a plot. Clou (Marie Lovejoy) and her tattoo-covered, insouciant, sexually ambiguous roommate Raven (Brad Caldwell), try hard to avoid work. The pair had a moneymaking con in connection with a modeling agency, but their other partner split with the ill-gotten gains. Amid much tension, Raven and Clou try to come up with a new game, which seems to involve both a new romantic arrangement and a new con.
In rushes Taylor (Miss Led), upset because he has witnessed a murder. He offers them a shockingly middle-class suggestion: "Maybe someone here should do something, like get a job," then shifts back to the memories of the murder.
Barely underway, the rich brew is full of subplots and detours. Taylor sees an item in the newspaper about feng shui, and tries to set up Clou as a feng shui expert. They'll get her mystical apparel. They'll advertise. She'll help rich women purify and decorate their homes. The persona Christevia is proposed, along with a logo of a leprechaun riding a butterfly over the rainbow. Clou eventually agrees to play the part and is soon off to advise Chawna Nieman (Tari Hohn), a woman with a weakness for strong drink and a house she wants to liberate from the lingering spirit of her despised ex-husband. Chawna has literally tried to torch every trace of the two-decade relationship. One of the play's delightful surprises is the odd-couple friendship that develops between the wealthy lost soul and her fraudulent feng shuist.
Director Frederick Mead gets some inspired performances from the cast of this imaginative, offbeat melodrama. It's well worth a trip to the Marigny Theatre hub of downtown bohemia.
9 p.m. Fri.-Sat., May 29-30
Marigny Theatre, 2240 St. Claude Ave., 218-5778; www.marignytheatre.org