Trumping the scourge of overpriced chain restaurants in Times Square, Lori Fischer brings a Southern greasy spoon diner to off-Broadway in Barbara’s Blue Kitchen. A woman’s work is never done, however; Fischer’s feisty Barbara Jean doesn’t just run her kitchen to the beat of her local DJ (Kurt Zischke), she embodies all of the downhome characters who come through its chiming doors to such a hilt that skillet grease seems to perfume the air. Switching such props as a backwards baseball cap (shrewish abusive mother Melissa) for a forwards-facing baseball cap (the abused Tommy Lee) or glasses (bleeding heart Miss Morris) for a headband (befuddled waitress Jeanette), the winsome, silver-throated Fischer spins the tale of a fateful day at Barbara’s Blue Kitchen. Will Barbara Jean’s Italian hairdresser beau keep his curling iron out of other women’s feathered bangs... or will he betray the promise ring he gave to her?
Depending on the character being portrayed, this mostly one-woman project runs from charming to staid and confusing. Fischer (who wrote the show as well as its cheeky country score) excels at playing the stock characters and caricatures — a nostalgic elderly woman, a smarmy Italian lover whose heavily-accented attempt at a country ballad is the show’s highlight — but when playing people who are not immediately recognizable, her characterizations regrettably tend to slip into one another. Ultimately, Barbara’s Blue Kitchen is a gentle Southern-fried labor of love — but little else. And there’s nothing wrong with that; sometimes you only want the mashed potatoes.