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'Spit' Has Polish, but Memories Can Mar

May 14, 1999|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

The first word that comes to mind in discussing Clarinda Ross' one-woman show "Spit Like a Big Girl" at the Met is--genteel. That's not damning with faint praise, either. Gentility is in short supply in today's rough-and-tumble world of uncensored stand-up and raw solo shows, and Ross' personal history about coming of age in the South is gentle, sweet and unvaryingly classy. Add to that Ross' enormous likability as a performer and a thoughtful staging by director Colin Campbell, and it would seem you have a winning combination.

It would seem. However an intermittently effective storyteller she is, Ross makes the common error of delving too exhaustively into the minutiae of her personal history. Some reminiscences--her failed marriage to an alcoholic, her travails and triumphs as the mother of a mentally retarded child, and her sweet courtship with her present husband--are absorbing, even cathartic. Other accounts--the make and model of Ross' first car, her blow-by-blow description of various acting jobs, her relocation to Los Angeles--are both overly specific to her own experience and too general in the telling.

A "birds and bees" talk between Ross and her Southern intellectual mother becomes little more than a generic conversation, while Ross' recitation of her grandmother's rules of etiquette (don't wear white before Memorial Day; be kind to old folks) holds few surprises. Ross brandishes her Southern-ness proudly, but largely fails to convey the rich eccentricity that is as much a product of the region as red-eye gravy and NASCAR racing.

*

* "Spit Like a Big Girl," Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends June 19. $12. (323) 957-1152. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

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