Playwright-performer Anne Galjour serves up two hours of bayou blarney in “Alligator Tales,” a collection of interwoven anecdotes set in the swamplands of Louisiana. Galjour plays eight characters, male and female, of a community besieged by, among other things, gators, storms, floods and oil companies, yet despite the near-biblical scale of plagues, these Cajuns stake little claim on audience emotions.
Reciting overwritten text that might read better than it plays — “The egrets pump their wings to the rhythm of the oil rig” or “I let him in, like the ground takes the rain” — Galjour can’t make these characters seem anything more than literary creations. Her performance style, which suggests the emphatic mannerisms and cartoony voices of children’s theater, pretty much precludes the type of subtle magic created by Galjour’s obvious inspiration, Anna Deavere Smith.
Where Smith fades behind the characters she channels, Galjour is front and center, impressive and amusing in her scope but never letting the audience forget that she’s an actress acting. Her characters, however lovingly etched, don’t quite breathe.
With a hurricane approaching, the various townsfolk tell their tales, from homebody Rosetta Cheramie, who frets over her yard statue of the Virgin Mary, to Sherelle Dantin, a nervous, flighty woman seemingly more worried about gators than the breast cancer killing her. Then there’s Sherelle’s sister Inez, the most sensible of the lot, to whom the hurricane blows a remarkable gift, and Uris Arceneaux, Sherelle’s suitor and walking lightning rod.
Other characters wade in and out of the wetland stories, and while director Sharon Ott keeps the coming and going fluid, “Alligator Tales” (which began as a one-act in 1993) feels stuffed. Motifs (the Virgin Mary, animals reviving unconscious humans) are repeated with writerly attention throughout the two acts, which might be a nice showcase for Galjour’s literary leanings but unfortunately helps swamp the spontaneity that could bring her patois to life.