CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- Willy Russell's "Shirley Valentine," a once frequent visitor to the region's stages, is back after a hiatus. This time around Hubbard Hall Theater Companby has her. The bound-up working-class English housewife who gains a new lease on life on a trip to Greece is being played this time around by Christine Decker, who's been bound up in male roles in her last two appearances here.

Shirley is a role that should fit Decker better than it does in this generally no-better-than workmanlike affair. Decker delivers a carefully plotted, methodical performance that feels more rooted in her head than in her heart or soul.

When first we meet Shirley, she is sharing her loneliness and frustration over what she calls her "unused" life with her best friend and constant companion, her kitchen wall, while she prepares an egg-and-chips supper for her demanding, self-centered husband, Joe, who is accustomed to something else. Shirley's deeply questioning ruminations are triggered by an offer she has received from her best friend to accompany her on a two-week holiday to Greece.

It is in Greece that Shirley not so much reinvents herself as she finds herself.

While she is more effective in the play's second half, Decker rarely gives more than lip-service to Shirley's irrepressible nature. Decker and Shirley are more acquaintances than intimate pals Too bad.


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In the right circumstances, Shirley Valentine is very much worth knowing.