What demons lurk among the populace of small-town America? In Barbara Wiechmanns pretentious drama, it isnt evil spirits but the Virgin Mary who has the citizens of Hadley, New York (population 2020), aflutter. After an apparition alights in one womans kitchen, the word spreads. Soon, other people purport to have seen, felt or spoken with Mary, whose less than benign message is that the judgment is coming. Framed by a pompous pseudoprofound narration (Joel Scher, in the role of narrator, gets mired in the schlock), the script winds through a plethora of soap-operatic plots involving dead or abandoned babies, sick and crotchety old people and troubled families or lovers. Conspicuously missing from the dialogue is any shred of irony or humor. Lots of good talent seems utterly wasted here, and its a mystery why the producers from this usually savvy company opted to mount this. Under Jerry Kernions direction, most members of the disciplined ensemble rise admirably above the material, in what unfolded as a series of very good, albeit unrelated, scene-study showcases. The best work is from Michelle Gardner, who imparts a down-to-earth vigor (and a touch of comedy as well) to her role as a troubled divorced mom and questioning Catholic. As with the performances, designer S. Wince Logans set creates an artful autumnal ambiance for what should have been a better play. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Dec. 14. (323) 856-8611.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Nov. 7. Continues through Dec. 14, 2008