In the Stanislavsky Theater Studio’s Gertrude Stein: If You Had Three Husbands, a co-production with Chicago’s Alchymia Theatre, sole performer Sarah Kane reads, drinks tea, and even dances a jig, but mostly she just speaks in cryptic, rhythmic Steinisms. “Public speaking is sinister if cousins are brothers,” Kane intones, and “Reasons do not necessitate flowers.” In an hourlong monologue of such head-scratchers, there are crumbs of lucidity (“When they were engaged, she said, ‘We are happy.’ When they were married, she said, ‘We are happy’”) and the result is a breathing abstract, a tease of words that mirror Stein’s fascination with cubism and wallop the audience with feelings of domestic despondency even as their precise meaning remains unclear. The stage is even set up like a painting: Kane is encircled by a frame of three wooden chairs, two clocks (a third hangs farther out), and an actual canvas that sits in the background of a space that, with the help of sound, comes to represent various rooms of a home. Though the work is tinged by experience—Stein lived with her partner, Alice B. Toklas, for nearly 40 years in France—a strict narrative never emerges. Slides projected above divide the monologue into linear, logical sections such as “Foreword,” “Early Days of Shading,” and “For That End”; but the clocks suggest a confusion of time, with one running quickly, one stopped, and one moving backward. Kane, dressed simply in a collared blouse, calf-length skirt, and Mary Janes, delivers Stein’s text with a breathless sincerity that’s integral to the piece’s hypnotism: She speaks her lines with such natural cadence and crisp enunciation that your ear accepts the words even as your brain struggles with their meaning—you can’t help but listen. If You Had Three Husbands is, very broadly, a profile of family life outlined by a narrator who, by nature of her language and wide-eyed delivery, often seems unreliable. So when she says, “I am so completely happy”—a statement stark and clear above all the gibberish—you’ll know enough not to believe her. —Tricia Olszewski