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Salt, Root and Roe

Amy Loui and Eric Dean White in "Salt, Root and Roe." Photo by ProPhotoSTL.com

Iola (Donna Weinsting) is steadily losing touch with reality, and her twin sister, Anest (Sally Edmundson), is helpless to do much about it. Their bond remains as strong as ever, but it’s quickly becoming clear that Iola poses a danger not only to herself and Anest but also to anyone drawn into their orbit.

That includes Anest’s daughter, Menna (Amy Loui), who has a short temper but a big heart — and who emerges as the most complex character in “Salt, Root and Roe.” Set in a seaside Welsh village, the play is presented through May 12 by Upstream Theater in collaboration with Stages Repertory Theatre Houston.

Written by Tim Price and directed by Kenn McLaughlin, “Salt, Root and Roe” largely deals with Menna’s attempt to impose structure on the lives of Iola and Anest. But Iola’s dementia proves to be a formidable obstacle, and Anest seems to be in denial about her sister’s condition.

Menna vents her frustrations to Gareth (Eric Dean White), a policeman who has troubles of his own — and who may harbor feelings that he lacks the courage to express.

The play is less concerned with narrative momentum than with delineating character and with thrusting the audience into a world whose rules are gradually revealed. It’s the kind of show that allows actors to shine, and McLaughlin elicits fine work from a solid cast.

Loui, who recently appeared in the Black Rep’s “Canfield Drive,” gets to the essence of Menna’s conflicted emotions. And White, whose turn as Satan was a highlight of Mustard Seed Theatre’s “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” is effective as the woebegone and quietly disillusioned Gareth.

Although Price has created a story that works well on its own terms, the offstage challenges facing Menna and Gareth might have made for more gripping drama. But “Salt, Root and Roe” should appeal to theatergoers interested in a play off the beaten path.

Calvin Wilson is theater critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.