Jar the Floor

Rated 3.0 Hollywood makes “buddy movies”—action films with two guys (and insignificant roles for women). These stem from the conventional wisdom that young, single guys are big at the box office.Many playwrights, however, generate what we might call “sisterhood plays”—dramas about female characters in which men, if they’re mentioned, are referenced as unhappy episodes in the past. Marketing wisdom suggests that it’s women who determine the picks when it comes to live theater.

Jar the Floor is a sisterhood play with mother-daughter architecture and with plenty of black conversational style, attractively done. The story involves four generations of an African-American family: a 90-year-old from the rural Deep South; a daughter of retirement age, who formerly was a nightclub dancer in Chicago; a 40-ish granddaughter hoping for tenure at the college where she teaches; and a rebellious great-granddaughter who’s dropped college in favor of a countercultural career as singer-songwriter in lesbian bars.

Playwright Cheryl West wrote the script in the 1990s and touches on many issues: senility; cancer (breast and prostate); dishonest and abusive husbands, boyfriends and fathers; and sexual satisfaction—with men, with women and without partners.

More than anything, it’s about mothers and daughters—including disputes about who’s making sacrifices, who’s copping out and who’s being selfish. A lot of allegations fly.

Though her topics are challenging, West’s writing falls close to the punchline/dramatic-climax routine found in television. You sense where commercials could be inserted.

The Sacramento Theatre Company staged this script in 1996, with the late Myrtle Stephens of Celebration Arts as the matriarch. (This production is dedicated to her memory.) Director Linda Goodrich and the cast of five make a strong case for the play—bringing more gravity and intensity to the conflicts, even if there are some hesitations over lines. The best parts are the arguments between Maydee (Andrea Boronell) and Lola (Darlene Tillis-Muhammad), plus the warm intrusions of Jewish girlfriend Raisa (Barbara Roberts). This is a less glossy production, but with more of an edge than the one staged seven years ago.

Jar the Floor plays at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday; $10-$12 ($6 Thursday). Celebration Arts, 4469 D Street, (916) 455-2787. Through May 3.