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Friday, December 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 26.0° F  Overcast
Arts
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Girls' night out
Why We Come Here bellies up to the bar
on

Somewhere between Sex and the City and Cheers (and slightly to the left of David Mamet's oeuvre) one might find Megan McGlone's Why We Come Here , an episodic, dialogue-driven comedy now premiering at Broom Street Theater.

The play is essentially a conversational duet between two sarcastic young women who meet at the same bar every week to discuss their romantic lives. Terra (Laura Collins Peterson) is a dryly witty lesbian who moves from girlfriend to girlfriend like a compulsive chain smoker. Leah (Laura Wineland) is her effusive and affectionate straight friend who is suffering through a string of flawed boyfriends. Dialogue between these two likeable actresses rings true.

However, this authenticity endows the play with strength and weakness simultaneously. Leah and Terra's cynical, expletive-rich conversation could be overheard in any State Street bar. At times the women's comments are cleverly incisive, and at other times their complaints over soured relationships are only as interesting as voyeurism makes them.

But the show picks up momentum with time, and several vignettes have a special zing. Peterson delivers Terra's "flaming dildo" tale with perfect deadpan timing, and Leah's drunken philosophizing over geological time is hysterical, due in part to the input of bartender Alex (played with charm by Jason Engle). In the hands of director and set designer Terry Lane, BST's generally spare stage has been transformed into a vibrant nightspot, which nicely accentuates the kaleidoscopic script.

Because the play progresses through a chain of rapid but repetitive scenes, a sense of cyclical stagnation replaces the usual arc of plot. This feeling of immobility is echoed when the play reaches its conclusion in a moment of surprising depth. "Why do we come here?" Leah and Terra ask each other repeatedly. In the end, it's more than friendship or habit that pulls them back to their bar stools. It might even be fate.

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