note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi
Cass Harris … Kathleen Dalton
Kip Harris … David Wood
Lois Coleman … Kimberly McClure
Barbara; Helicopter Pilot; Waitresses; Janie … Anne Damon
Karla … Deanna Swan
Glen … Brad Walters
Captain Mike … Bill Stambaugh
Whether you consider David Lindsay-Abaire’s FUDDY MEERS to be a brilliant comedy or cannot make heads or tails of it, his WONDER OF THE WORLD is even more manic, centering on another female innocent in search of herself, one Cass Harris who leaves her husband Kip upon discovering his perverse pleasure of swallowing and shitting out a particular item (blessedly, not shown onstage --- and is such an activity possible without choking?). On a bus bound for Niagara Falls, clutching a salmon aspic in her lap, Cass strikes up a friendship with Lois Coleman, an alcoholic who plans to go over the Falls in a pickle barrel (said barrel is resting in her own lap). Kip sets a bumbling pair of husband-and-wife sleuths onto Cass’ trail, Cass has an affair with a tourist-captain whose wife died a peanut butter death and, well, you get my drift. On the night I attended the Vokes production, the audience whooped and guffawed, throughout --- it took me a while to warm up to the fun (I like my comedy much less neurotic, thank you) but when a trio of theme-restaurants unfolded in Act Two, complete with appropriately dressed waitresses, soon followed by a therapy session conducted along the lines of a 1960s game-show, I succumbed to Mr. Lindsay-Abaire’s clever-clever plot-twists; as we used to say, several decades ago, this is one a-wild and a-crazy guy.
The Vokes Players’ reputation, history and, of course, its century-old charm repeatedly draws certain actors to its boards and its current cast could well become the core of its own repertory company (a glance at the production crew list reveals those actors who, if not performing, are working backstage). Marblehead’s Mugford Street Players boasts some of the finest dramatic artists, around; the Vokes Players teams with inspired clowns and I’ve spent some enjoyable nights in their company. The WONDER-ful cast is the richest gathering yet and kept from melting by Doug Sanders’ dry-ice touch: Kathleen Dalton, whose declamation is the flip side of Alvin & The Chipmunks, is a charming, stylized Cass, her hyperness blending well with the low-keyed turns of David Wood and Bill Stambaugh as her swains. Kimberly McClure’s Lois is deceptively nonchalant yet you could set a watch to Ms. McClure’s crack timing and Anne Damon walks off with her series of walk-ons, especially her three waitresses who are a collective hoot (Ms. Damon is equally adept at serious drama, proven in last season’s THE RETREAT FROM MOSCOW). I last viewed Deanna Swan (lovely name) sporting a garish Molière wig in THE LEARNED LADIES; as the sleuthing wife, Ms. Swan has switched from classical to Absurd without sacrificing her handsome, patrician bearing (anyone for THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT?); Brad Walters, a Vokes regular in the past but new to me, is a comic marvel as Ms. Swan’s sleuthing hubby, all strangulated voice and childlike attention span. These are performances to cherish whether or not you care for Mr. Lindsay-Abaire’s vision.
The WONDER stagehands go clunk while shifting scenes and the final transition takes forever but leads into the most original, touching ending I’ve seen in years --- who’d have thought Mr. Lindsay-Abaire had a heartbeat in him, after all?