First-time writer-director Heather Renken certainly has an ear for Southern banter. Broom Street Theater's Oh, God! There's Baptists at the Door! is rife with tangy down-home expressions and insults so honey-dipped you almost miss the sting. Renken's talent with colloquialisms ("You make about as much sense as tits on a tree") is put to good use, as dialogue makes up the meat of this psycho-comedy.
The scant plot jolts from a high school dance to a room in some alternate Southern reality, where Maggie (Ashley Sevedge), a displaced teenager, meets Mae (Kathie Rasmussen), a soft-spoken Southern lady so self-effacing that she's almost a blank slate. Mae's room is made up of doors designed to suit her retinue of visitors, including a lecherous minister, a catty aerobics instructor and a brutal executive. As her visitors arrive, Mae changes masks both literally and figuratively, becoming whatever her guests wish to see, while Maggie huffs in exasperated disbelief. Progressive Maggie can't resist arguing with Mae's visitors, lecturing them for their narrow-minded views, but it is Mae who finally teaches Maggie a lesson, stripping away the younger woman's sarcastic smirk to reveal the secrets beneath.
The play's Southern archetypes are well worn, even a bit trite, but the cast brings revitalizing energy to Broom Street's stage. Most memorable are John Eichenlaub as the cheese-straw-and-hellfire-spewing Reverend Spout and the fanatical members of the Ladies' Club (Annie Jay, Jennifer Poppy and Nancy Craig), who coo and moan over dinner menus in a way that makes When Harry Met Sally's sandwich orgasm seem chaste. Lessons about the pitfalls of stereotyping, racism, misogyny and No Child Left Behind are dutifully trucked out, but the show is at its best when its moral barbs are hidden in a pithy turn of phrase.