1930s Memphis blues and African-American traditional folk magic add moody layers to Katori Hall's narrative about an oppressed woman struggling toward uncertain success. Toulou (Andrea Meshel) has escaped cotton picking to chase her dreams of onstage stardom on Beale Street. Ace (Elijah Rock), Toulou's often absentee lover, also wants to make it on the blues scene, but it will take a love spell from resident conjurer Candy Lady (Karen McClain) to curb Ace's wandering urges. Enter Jib (understudy Mark Anthony Williams), Toulou's Bible-thumping brother, and things go from somewhat down-and-out to horrifically bad for Toulou. The scenery chewing in this production is extensive, but it mostly serves the story. The somewhat uneven musical performances are not helped by onstage mimed guitar playing, but musical director Haskel Joseph saves the day with live guitar strains that please. The standout musical highlight is a duet featuring McClain and Rock, a number that's worth the price of admission. The Complex/Ruby Theatre, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through April 1. (323) 642-7358, hoodoolove.eventbrite.com.

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Starts: Feb. 2. Continues through April 1, 2012

LA Weekly