`Hurricane' Might Just Blow You Over

-------------- THEATER REVIEW --------------

"Hurricane," written and performed by Anne Galjour, directed by Henry Steele. At New City Theatre, 1634 11th Ave., Thursdays-Sundays through Feb. 13. 323-6800.

"That summer it rained so much, every day the ground hadn't finished sucking up the puddles before it started raining again."

So goes the vivid opening line of Anne Galjour's captivating solo play, "Hurricane." And for the next 75 minutes time seems suspended, as Galjour narrates a tale as mysterious and enveloping as the steamy Louisiana Bayou landscape she conjures.

Imagine Eudora Welty or Flannery O'Connor acting out their stories instead of just writing them down, and you have an inkling of what Galjour is up to. The San Francisco-based performer will present "Hurricane" at New City Theatre through Feb. 13.

Like all great Southern storytellers, the Louisiana-bred Galjour hooks your attention quick but reels you in slow. With graceful shifts of voice, posture, and attitude, she introduces six small-town Cajun characters and deftly entwines their fates as a tropical gulf storm of prodigious fury (Hurricane Wanda) brews, strikes and subsides around them.

No time is wasted on exposition. Voila! And we are absorbed into the pungent, and often funny, here-and-now of Sherelle (a deceptively frail convalescent), her intrepid fly-fishing sister Inez and their neighbor Rosetta, a woman with a voice that could skin an alligator and an extreme fondness for the color aqua.

Also heard from are the nervous scuba diver Marlon (sic), the gentle, hulking Urus (living proof that lightning strikes twice), and Rosetta's taciturn husband Grady.

But the story filters down mostly through the women's perceptions and sensibilities. Food is as important a means of expression here as in Laura Esquivel's "Like Water For Chocolate" - though in "Hurricane" the recipes shared in savory detail are for pan-fried redfish, wild turtle soup and other Cajun delicacies.

And the natural wonders and carnal stirrings Galjour conveys are nearly as sensuous as those depicted in Jane Campion's much-discussed film, "The Piano." (In this case, however, the only bloodshed occurs when a fish-hook snags the wrong prey.)

A wiry, wide-eyed woman, Galjour is fascinating to watch and listen to. Her dress looks like it's been caught in a whirlwind of phosphorescent leaves. The sole piece of scenery, a textured cloth backdrop (designed by John Mayne and vibrantly lit by Novella Smith) reddens, glows gold and casts eerie swamp grass shadows.

Out of the eye of this "Hurricane" come emanations of desire, terror, grief, renewal, and respect for the ferocious power of nature. But Galjour never literalizes such things. She just describes what her characters see, smell, hear, touch, feel. And the angel is in the details.