Pointless Theatre is a small troupe with a gift for imagery — shadows and puppets that make swift, striking impressions. In the troupe's "Imogen," indelible pictures include the horrible long-fingered intruder invading the title character's bedroom and the haunting silhouette that Imogen's faraway lover imagines as he is told lies that stoke his worst fears.
"Imogen" is an adaptation of Shakespeare's crazily plotted "Cymbeline" that fits the city's current Women's Voices Theater Festival by foregrounding "the woman's part," to borrow from a notorious misogynistic speech in the play. Imogen is angry King Cymbeline's exiled daughter, and the story has always largely been hers. Driving home the point, director Charlie Marie McGrath's staging makes the king a wee hand puppet manipulated by his mischievous, power-mad queen (played with robust malice and treacherously pursed black lips by Hilary Morrow).
The show's style fills the promising black-box space at Dance Loft on 14. Two live musicians underscore a lot of the action, and Patti Kalil's storybook set features two-dimensional painted tree trunks that fancifully join functional beds and benches at the base. Julie Cray-Leong's costumes evolve from Elizabethan boots and ruffled sleeves to contemporary-cut jeans and T-shirts.
It is not all as seamlessly integrated as previous Pointless visions; at 2½ hours, it is a full Shakespearean sprawl, and Matt Reckeweg's crisp shadow puppets are accents here rather than star players. The acting is capable, led by Katelyn Manfre's appealing, persistent title character, and the action has flair. "Imogen" finds Pointless branching out and trending up.
Just closed at Baltimore's Theatre Project and coming shortly to the District's Logan Fringe Arts Space is "Love Is a Blue Tick Hound," a collection of Audrey Cefaly's short works. Cefaly was a find in the 2015 Women's Voices Festival; her "Maytag Virgin" at Quotidian Theatre was an ambling romance between two lovelorn teachers in rural Alabama, and the next year, Signature Theatre created a gleamingly designed and acted production of her two-character romance "The Gulf."
"The Gulf" is a shorter piece in "Love Is a Blue Tick Hound," which confirms Cefaly's knack for honest, quiet talk and American South reality. "Fin & Euba," the opener, eavesdrops on two young women unwinding one evening out back of the run-down boardinghouse they both hate. They are stuck in a milltown, though one of them could be a photographer if she could find the nerve to take a chance.
Cefaly does not sugarcoat the choices: Having even a little something can seem safer than risking it for something better. That is echoed in "The Gulf," about two girlfriends in a fishing boat. Stealthily, their wonderfully observed dialogue swirls toward whether their romance is sinking.
The staging is modest by Baltimore's Rapid Lemon Productions, but Cefaly's deliberately crafted regional voice and unhurried cadence come through clearly. The acting is particularly good in "Clean," which hilariously and poignantly begins with a waitress lying on the restaurant floor, giving up during a really bad day. Betse Lyons is a waitress tired of trying, while Justin Johnson plays a sweet Italian immigrant with a different point of view.
The upbeat love story is more compelling in "Clean" than in "Stuck," where the comic plot finds an intimidating young woman piercing a nervous man's ear on their weird second date. Cefaly can be funny: All of these plays generate oddball laughs that score because they sound true. The high-jinks plot of "Stuck" does not quite hang right; so far, Cefaly's people are most convincing when they are just hanging out.
Imogen, adapted and directed by Charlie Marie McGrath. Choreography, Ryan Sellers; lights, Mary Keegan; musical direction/composer, Michael Winch. With Alex Turner, Acacia Danielson, Mason Catharini, Maximillian Lapine, Kiernan McGowan, Lee Gerstenhaber, Reynaldo McClinton, Kevin Thorne II and Navid Azeez. About 2½ hours. Through Feb. 11 at the Dance Loft on 14, 4618 14th St. NW. Tickets $30. Visit pointlesstheatre.com. Love Is a Blue Tick Hound, by Audrey Cefaly. Directed by Donna Ibale, Lee Conderacci, Betse Lyons and Lauren Erica Jackson. Set, Reese Siedlecki; lights, Allan Sean Weeks; costumes, Deana Fisher Brill; sound, Max Garner; fight choreography, Allison Bloechl. With Carolyn Koch, Lauren Erica Jackson, Donna Ibale, Aladrian C. Wetzel, Mike Smith and Lee Conderacci. About two hours. Feb. 9-17 at the Trinidad Theatre, Logan Fringe Arts Space, 1358 Florida Ave. NE. Tickets $25. Call 866-811-4111 or visit capitalfringe.org.