Review: ‘Byhalia Mississippi’ at B Street Theatre

Byhalia Mississippi

Starting a family is harder than it looks.

Starting a family is harder than it looks.

Photo courtesy of B Street Theatre

Wed 2pm & 6:30pm, Thu 8pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 5pm & 9pm, Sun 2pm; Through 4/12; $25-$37; B Street Theatre, 2700 Capitol Ave., (916) 443-5300,
Rated 4.0

There are many good things to be said about Even Linder’s Byhalia, Mississippi, now on the B Street Theatre’s Mainstage. It’s a comedy-drama about a young couple and their family and friends, some of whom could charitably be called “poor white trash,” and it is without an ounce of disdain or condescension.

It is a truthful depiction of a section of American culture that is mostly ignored in a lot of contemporary theater—hard-working, struggling folks in a “new South” that isn’t quite as new as we would hope.

Jim and Laurel (Peter Story and Tara Sissom, respectively, and both in top form) are a young married couple struggling with employment, the imminent birth of a first child and a couple of instances of infidelity (on both their parts, it turns out). Laurel’s mother (Stephanie McVay, who is as perfect as an aspiring Southern dame can be), Robert Karma Robinson as Karl, Jim’s best friend, and Tiffany Oglesby as the wife of the apparent father of Laurel’s child add to the stellar performances.

Director Jerry Montoya takes his sweet time delivering the story that is sharp like Southern bourbon and sweet like Tupelo honey.

There’s love and laughter, and tears of disappointment and rage in this engaging melodrama that goes heavy on acceptance—difficult as that can be—and light on the condemnation of bias and discrimination, although the consequences of that continue to be felt.