note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Sheila Barth
Eric Overmyer’s 1980s sci-fi play, “On the Verge,” is touted as a hilarious time travel fantasy, but the two ambitious productions I’ve seen fell flat. Five years ago, I called the play flawed.
Although New Repertory Theatre Artistic Director-Director Jim Petosa, his accomplished cast of four, and cadre of creative stage folks make a valiant effort to resurrect this play about three adventurous 19th century female anthropologist-explorers, and ratchet up the second act, it’s still ho-hum, not gung ho.
Banding together, in their proper Victorian bustled garb, the women set out in 1888 to explore Terra Incognita (undiscovered or unknown land), sans equipment, porters and guides. Along the way, they encounter some weirdo males and time travel into the future, to 1955 American pop culture.
The stalwart three discover rare artifacts, and spout new words and phrases, such as Mrs. Butterworth, dirigibles, an “I Like Ike” button, Nixon, Burma Shave, Cool Whip, rock ‘n’ roll, the Grand Tetons, Teddy Roosevelt, Mr. Coffee, jukebox, slot machine, BeBe Rebozo, Esso station, Chiclets, the World Series, microphones, jacuzzis and whirlpools.
Versatile, veteran actress Adrianne Krstansky portrays Fanny, a proper, married explorer. Paula Langton as anthropologist Mary Baltimore of Boston thinks trousers are terrible and strictly for men; and Christine Hamel is Alex(andra), the youngest of this intrepid trio. Enthusiastically, she advocates wearing trousers while exploring unknown territory. She’s into new, modern contraptions, such as her picture-taking machine (camera), but continuously confuses her words, such as, “I am refurbished. I mean refreshed.”
Wielding their transparent umbrellas while traipsing through tropical forests, thunderstorms, blistering heat, and scaling promontories (three chairs in center stage) the women encounter Alphonse, the pilot-garbed cannibal; a supernatural, prophetic vision of Fanny’s husband, Grover; an actor, who is a toll-taking troll by day; Gus, the teen-age gas station attendant at Woody’s Esso; “Mr. Coffee,” the explorers’ guide in 1955; and slick-talking casino-club owner Nicky Paradise, who wins Fanny’s love. Award-winning actor Benjamin Evett adds fun in these quick-changing, fast-paced roles, but even he can’t resurrect this draggy play.
Neither can Cristina Todesco’s exciting set, with its massive backdrop of white chairs tumbling askew; hanging arrangement of futuristic white and silver orbs; and large, movable, opaque panels, that allow Mary Ellen Stebbins’ handsome lighting to reflect coloration indicating daylight, nighttime, verdure, sunshine, an apparition’s aura and neon lights. David Remedios’ sound effects reverberate, but monitored announcements of each scene add nothing.
BOX INFO: Two-act comedic time-travel fantasy, appearing at New Repertory Theatre, Charles Mosesian Theater, 321 Arsenal St., Arsenal Center for the Arts, Watertown, through May 25: May 23, at 8 p.m.; May 25, at 2 p.m.; May 24, 3,8 p.m.; May 22, 2,7:30 p.m. Tickets:$28-$60; student, senior, group discounts available. Call 617-923-8487 or visit newrep.org.