Little Lake Theatre’s production of Wonder of the World is a zany madcap comedy populated by characters who are just a bit off center. What is normal these days?
As the play opens, a young woman from Brooklyn named Cass is preparing to leave her husband Kip. She has recently discovered his collection of Barbie heads while arranging his sweater drawer and he confesses to an unusual sexual fetish,
Kip arrives home unexpectedly with a surprise make-up gift of trout aspic for lunch. Through the course of rapid-fire zany “I’m leaving”, “Please don’t” banter, it becomes quite obvious these two characters are at the opposite end of the spectrum in just about every aspect of their public and private lives.
After she disentangles herself from Kip, Cass hops a bus to Niagara Falls in search of freedom, enlightenment and a chance to check off a few items from her voluminous personal bucket list. On the bus, she winds up sitting next to Lois, a suicidal alcoholic with a barrel. She is on her way to the Falls and one can easily guess why.
Cass has the boundless energy and inquisitiveness of a puppy which is the last thing the alcohol infused Lois needs. However, lunch in the form of trout aspic wins her over and they bond. Next scene, they are sharing a hotel room at the Falls, complete with the mother lode of a well-stocked mini bar. Lois is pleased.
In order to research how the barrel-over-the-falls thing might work for Lois, she and Cass decide to take a trip on the “Maid of the Mist”. Here we meet an older couple Karla and Glen (hold that thought) and Mike, the handsome widower tour boat captain. After meeting Mike, Cass decides to check off an item from her list by sleeping with a ship’s Captain.
Turns out Karla and Glen are a pair of bickering and bumbling private detectives hired by Kip to track down Cass. In reality, they are really just down on their luck yarn shop owners who decide to be detectives to make a few bucks.
Just to round out the fun, there is a woman on the boat who has lost her hair , a helicopter pilot who drinks while flying, three waitresses at three different themed restaurants and a clown therapist on parole.
Wonder of the World was written by David Lindsay-Abaire who previously wrote Fuddy Meers. Both works show off his madcap imagination and snappy dialogue writing style.
The ensemble cast is led by Elizabeth Glyptis who plays Cass to perfection as a delightful victim of unfocused ADD whose words careen out of her mouth with little connection between thoughts or sentences for that matter.
Jacob Wadsworth portrayal of Kip leans towards that of a gay man, which further reinforces the inherent incompatibility of Cass and Kip as a married couple. His opening scene begging Cass to not leave him is a bit over the top, not quite as hysterical as was perhaps intended. Wadsworth demonstrates good comedic timing skills in his portrayal.
You would not necessarily expect an alcoholic on a bender to be the sane one of the group, but Leah Hillgrove’s portrayal of Lois provides a breath of relative calm and draws in our sympathies. The scene with Cass and Lois on the bus is just perfection. Her facial expressions are subtle and spot on.
David Hoffman as Glen and Marianne Shaffer as Karla, are the down and out yarn shop owners turned detectives. They perfectly portray the long-married couple. The scene where they are searching the girl’s hotel room as Glen can’t keep his mouth shut and Karla tries her best to stifle him was delightful.
Captain Mike, played by Arjun Kumar, is probably the most “normal” character in the show. There was a missed comedic opportunity as Cass was trying to seduce him in the wheelhouse of the “Maid of the Mist”.
Renee Ruzzi-Kern plays the other six characters, the best of which is the “who cares it’s just another flight over the Falls” helicopter pilot. She is also the Clown Therapist, which is a challenge to draw our attention late in the show with all these other crazy people on stage.
Physical comedy is not easy to pull off yet Director Jena Oberg brings the ensemble together quite effectively. The show is complex in its staging with multiple scene locations and her experience with Little Lakes in-the-round stage pays off.
Little Lake’s veteran Prop Master Pam Pasternak once again demonstrates her gift of creating effective settings with no scenery, just props. Program credit is not given for lighting or sound design, but both were quite effective in setting the mood of the scenes. On opening night, the run crew was spot on with their cues. Kudo’s to Technical Director Andrew Seay.
Cass’s journey of enlightenment on the way out of her marriage and into the Falls brought joy and smiles to the audience, to the point of people almost falling out of their seats with laughter, a perfect escape for a hot summer night.
Wonder of the World at the Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive, Canonsburg, PA 15317. Performances on July 21st & 22nd , 27th to 30th and August 1st to 3rd.
For tickets visit http://www.littlelake.org/box-office/ or call 724-745-6300
Special thanks to Little Lake for the complimentary tickets. Photos courtesy of James Orr.