note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark
Set Design by Joseph Stephenson
Lighting Design by Al Fairbrother
Sound Design by Donna Corbett & Fred Robbins
Stage Manager John Murtagh
Mary................Christina R. Chan
Grover et al...Joseph Zamparelli, Jr.
The Delvena Theatre Company's "On The Verge or The Geography of Yearning" is exactly that kind of half-empty-half-full show that most people will either love or hate --- and some people will love AND hate. I'm in the latter camp.
The three intrepid lady explorers bushwhacking their way into the land called Terra Incognita --- odd enough in themselves --- are continually surprised by oddities that keep popping up. They blurt words they don't understand, for instance, and find an "I like Ike" button even though their expedition started out in 1888. They land upon a beach carrying all the things that native bearers might carry (they've eschewed bearers), but are soon whacking through jungle, and then inexplicably whisked to the highlands of Tibet, and reluctantly realize that their trek is through time as well as geography.
If you think all this is silly, you're right, and if you think silly can't be fun, don't go. But if absurd twists in theatrical reality and little odd hints that build a weird reality all their own are your cup of tea, go!
The sketchy set Joseph Stephenson provided in the intimate Leland Center calls for a lot of mime to convey non-existent jungles and precipices, and the strain of yet Another surprise after so very many taxes the inventiveness of the cast and the patience of the audience after an act and a half. Still they are indeed inventive, and their ability to be surprised never flags. Their complicated interactings border on dance upon occasion, and their willingness to accept the absurd is maintained perhaps longer than any audience can keep pace.
Eric Overmyer seems word-drunk, so it's natural that Nicole Jesson, playing the poetically-inclined Alexandra who keeps correcting her forcefully stated wrong words, has the most fun surprising herself. Playing the scientifically detached Mary, Christina R. Chan keeps a steady, flat delivery that sounds a bit like stagefright at getting all these outre lines correct. Lynne Moulton is the primly conservative Fanny who, once they have trekked to 1955, finds her straight laces melting into bobbysoxed sensuality. And Joseph Zamparelli, Jr. as "everyone else" presents an outlandish series of bits, from an actor consciously imitating Brando to an impish abominable snowman.
The twists of plot and the games with reality here mean that nothing is "real" for long, but director Donna Corbett treats everything as patently absurd, so it unfolds as a series of melting comedy routines without discernible shape. This is funny enough on the surface, but inevitably fails to build up to any payoff. If anything can happen, then no one thing can have much significance, nor can the sequence of funny bits establish interconnections.
But then, getting all the lines and all the steps and all the business down at all is an achievement. And if you like this sort of thing, you'll like this, if you don't you won't. And even if you hate it for what isn't finished, you may love it for for what's there at one in the same time.
Just as I did.