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THEATER REVIEW: “Ten Cent Night” brings out the crazy characters

How’s this for a lineup: A hard-drinkin’, hard-hearted, git-tar-pickin’ woman who says of her twin sister, “About my favorite sound in the world was the sound Dee’s heart made when it broke.”

A madam with a heart of barbed wire. A 16-year-old girl with a life-threatening heart problem, sweet on her twin brother. A “collector,” aka enforcer. And a 20-something mute.

Sounds like a gang that belongs in a country/western song, doesn’t it?

But no, it’s the cast of Marisa Wegrzyn’s quirky “Ten Cent Night,” playing through June 26 at Moxie Theatre.

I’m tempted to call this a Texas trailer-trash version (minus the tin can) of Tracy Letts’ “August: Osage County,” which recently closed at the Old Globe. In fact, I will, because the two shows share the same virtues and weaknesses.

Both feature dysfunctional families with a capital D. Both portray bad behavior and self-destructive tendencies including incest. Both are peopled by characters few would ever want to meet – in fact, I found it difficult to spend even a few hours with any of them.

On the plus side for both: A fine cast, some funny lines, occasionally amusing situations.

In “Ten Cent Night,” the always reliable Karson St. John plays Roby Finley, at 28 unsettled, unwed and apparently unbedded. The daughter of a country/western singer/composer best known for the title song, she sings occasionally in local dives, torments sister Dee (Jennifer Eve Thorn) and helps look after their 16-year-old twin sibs Sadie (Erin Petersen) and Holt (Jordan Zimmer).

Danny Doucet (Justin Lang), the 20-year-old mute, shows up to complicate the plot line.

The expectation is that the family will be able to live nicely on the royalties from dad’s song (he has recently killed himself). But then where would the plot be?

Enter Lila Mozelle (the incomparable Dana Hooley), madam extraordinaire, whose (unseen) son Russ has plowed his way through a few members of the Finley clan. Lila, for reasons you don’t want to know about, has hired an attorney to secure her rights to the song.

That’s basically it. Oh, except that characters keep talking about “snogging,” a Britishism distinctly out of place in this area of the country. And oh, yes, there’s that metal folding chair Roby is handcuffed to. You don’t want to hear about that either, but it does make for some interesting visuals.

Delicia Turner Sonnenberg keeps the action moving on Ryan Seybert’s fine set. Costumer Jennifer Brawn Gittings makes it all look right (and Lila particularly hilarious), and the tech team of Rogelio Rosales, Bonnie Breckenridge (lighting) and Matt Lescault-Wood (sound) give the show the right look and sound.

This is one seriously goofy show, well done and recommended for a night when you don’t want to think too much.

The details

“Ten Cent Night” plays through June 26 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd.

Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.

For tickets, call (858) 598-7620 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.