Saturday, August 17, 2013

Wonder of the World

Wonder of the World.  Haley Johnson, Lindsey Pierce.

Wonder of the World
Playwright: David Lindsay-Abaire
Company:  Miner's Alley Playhouse
VenueMiner's Alley Playhouse, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, CO
Running Time:  2 hours, 30 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission)
Date of Performance:  Friday, August 16, 2013

Spoiler alert.  No...not that kind.  I'm not going to give away the plot here.  Rather, I'm alerting the reader that I'm not recommending this play.  Please take my recommendation with a grain of salt.  For personal reasons, this was not a good experience for me; it may be different (and better) for you.
The title, Wonder of the World, refers to one of the wonders of the world (but the reference is debatable):  Niagara Falls.  Niagara Falls is no doubt spectacular, and it is not just the setting for most of the play, but nearly rises to the level of being an actual character as well.  
To be completely fair, there is a lot that is worthwhile in the Miner's Alley production.  
Cast of "Wonder of the World," including stage hands (back row) John Kramer, Tyler Roach, Melissa Rios
The acting is top notch; Haley Johnson as Cass is alternately thoughtful, playful, distracted, and angry...all done with the conviction and force she can muster.  Matthew Blood-Smyth is marvelous.  His Kip is mousy, frightened, disturbed, perverted, but not without a dash of charm. Lindsey Pierce as the suicidal Lois is especially striking.  She has a quick wit, attitude, and an excellent sense of timing, despite her chronic desperation.  Christian Mast (Captain), is a seasoned stage veteran who appeared in one of my favorite all time local productions.  He is on top of his game here, playing a Captain of a Maid of the Mist vessel who is seduced by Cass and ultimately dispatched permanently right on stage.
My problem is not with the acting, nor with the technical (sound, lights, etc) elements.  Robert Kramer's direction was creative and well paced, although I did find the helicopter scene rather juvenile.  In what is a fairly unusual move, Kramer made the stage hands part of the entertainment, and it worked.  In fact, it worked very well.
Christian Mast, Haley Johnson.
I have one small quibble with what is otherwise a very creative set.  Couldn't we get an actual, rather than an imaginary, door?  It was distracting to watch actors enter and exit through an imaginary door when all other set elements were well defined.
My disappointment here is principally with Lindsay-Abaire's script.  It attempts to be a profound look at life, how we make decisions that may or may not change our lives, and, in the end, what any of it all means.  Instead of profound, it comes off as a muddled self-indulgent trip through life crises with no redeeming or unifying message.  
The script is darkly funny, although audiences with recent experience with death, loss, and grief (I include myself in this group) may not be very amused.  Likewise, those with suboptimal relationships/marriages may find the plot too critical of their own bleak circumstances (I do not include myself in this group).
As a personal matter, I find suicide to be a poor subject for humor.  Lindsay-Abaire gives us abundant punch lines based Lois' suicidal arc.  If you have lost a loved one to suicide, you are probably not in the demographic for Wonder of the World.  If you haven't lost a loved one to suicide, you may still not find the subject amusing.  
It's never a good sign to me when I am accurately anticipating the next line in a script.  Wonder of the World presented several opportunities for me to correctly guess the next line, and I did.
I can't leave the script without mentioning "The Newlywed Game."  It's one of Lindsay-Abaire's plot devices.  It's cute, no question about that, but it also seemed a misplaced and lazy device.  Granted, I'm not a fan of the actual game show, but coming as it did near the penultimate scene, it just seemed odd.
Finally, the central plot device here is Kip's perversion.  I don't do spoilers, so there's no chance I would disclose the perversion in question.  I would say, however, that even if I regularly disclosed plot details in my posts, I would refuse to do so in this case.  Not because I don't want to spoil the story, but because the details are entirely too disgusting.  I expect Lindsay-Abaire gave Kip this unusual character flaw to make him funnier.  For me, the effect was not amusing; it was revolting.
Reviews here are subjective; there may be few who agree with me.  That's fine.  Theater is personal, and for me personally, this is not a show I can recommend to others.  I will admit that most of the audience was laughing and evidently enjoying the show.  I respect that, but I just couldn't join them in this case.

There is ample parking behind the theater.  Enter from either 12th Street or 11th Street.
This show closes on September 1, 2013.  
Photo Credits: Miner's Alley Playhouse
This show closes on September 1, 2013.  

Director:  Robert Kramer
Assistant Director:  Veronica Kramer
Set Design:  Rick Bernstein and Jonathan Scott-McKean
Sound Design:  Len Matheo and Jonathan Scott-McKean
Lighting Design:  Jonathan Scott-McKean
Costumes:  Ann Piano

Karla:  Debra Caamaño  
Glen:  Verl Hite 
Barbara, Helicopter Pilot, Waitresses, Janie:  Erica Johnson 
Cass Harris:  Haley Johnson  
Captain Mike:  Captain Mike 
Lois Coleman:  Lindsey Pierce 
Kip Harris:  Matthew Blood-Smyth 

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