Breathing Lessons Book-It Repertory Theatre at Seattle Center House Theatre

Through June 29.

For innumerable and completely explicable reasons, Breathing Lessons' audience was the identical twin sister of every Oprah audience since the dawn of history. (Not sure what I'm talking about? Turn on The Oprah Winfrey Show. There you go.) Women, mostly. The few men in the joint were largely sensitive Way of the Peaceful Warrior types in khaki, and while I took note of this it struck me how much you can tell about a play by its audience. (I think marketing types call this phenomenon "demographics.")

Breathing Lessons has a very "Lifetime: Television for Women" aura about it. It was adapted from Anne Tyler's novel (the literary equivalent of a "chick flick," albeit one that garnered the Pulitzer Prize), which was also adapted for a Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-TV movie. Its main characters--creaky ol' Maggie and Ira Moran--are bland, middle-aged, middle-of-the-road, Middle American folk who stink of quiet desperation and all-American ordinariness.

But somehow, I wound up loving them.

As Maggie, Jane Jones is dazzling, embodying this gossipy, meddlesome housewife with such good-natured joie de vivre that I began to adore (and secretly encourage) Maggie's misguided scheming and general dithering. Jonah Von Spreecken is adorably feckless as the rock-'n'-rolling son Jesse, and I even grew to admire Michael Winters' richly stoic Ira, whose primary concerns are maintaining normalcy and facing up to dreadful things like "hard facts." And can I say that Theresa Holmes plays the hands-down best cantankerous trailer-trash woman I have seen this side of Cops? Thank you.

This clever, funny, touching story spans just a single day in the Morans' life--a day that begins in bed, progresses to familial disaster, and ends in bed. Throughout you get the impression that all of the bickering, drama, and emotional torture is simply par for the Morans' dysfunctional course. Yet the outstanding cast deftly endears these desperate characters to us, inspiring both sympathy and empathy and proving... what? That the ordinary is sometimes secretly extraordinary? I'd hate to be that trite. But yes, that's it exactly. And sue me if I adored it.

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