The title of Jim Loucks’s one-man show, The Biscuiteater, comes from a distinction made in the American South between hounds that hunt and dogs that don’t. The former are seen as animals that aggressively pursue their prey, while the latter are loving pets that mostly beg for biscuits.
Loucks’ 60-minute session of storytelling centers on his grandfather, a fierce fellow who was both world-weary and worldly-wise, while bringing other family members into the narrative spotlight. These include his father, a philandering fire-and-brimstone minister who has a flame on the side, and his meek mother who packs a pearl-handled pistol.
Loucks’ skill as a solo performer has its strengths and weaknesses. The enactment of sound cues, such as the slamming of doors and other auditory events, have great physical impact when he brings them into the tale. However, his diction gets a little rushed and indistinct during several passages when he is the story’s narrator. His representations of the female characters are cleaner and more energetic than their male counterparts, which adds an imbalance to the show’s focus on the family patriarch.
The art of long-form storytelling requires an intricate structure of arcs and payoffs, and while all the pieces and patterns are present in Loucks’ performance, the moments of both feel a bit shorted. Also, writing that is set in the South offers the opportunity for a more lyrical and amusing use of metaphor, which can take an audience by surprise if they are inventive. Loucks’ script tends to opt for the more familiar and clichéd.
The Biscuiteater isn’t a bad show by any means — but it prefers to curl up on the rug rather than look for something into which it can sink its teeth and not let go.