The lifelong bonds between four Italian women are put to the test during a shaky reunion in Janyce Lapore's Ferris Wheel. The place is Pittsburgh, the time is the late 1960s, the location is an amusement park, and the four female relatives each have problems of their own. Lisa Marie (Viviana L. Rodriguez) is coming home after a stay at a hospital, recovering from a traumatic experience none of the others wants to talk about. Celia (Hope Carter) and Toni (Traci Hovel) are constantly bickering while preparing for Lisa's return. When Babs (Joan Ryan) finally arrives with Lisa, the quartet plan for a full day of picnicking and rides, but soon after getting together, they all take turns revealing frustrations with each other and revelations of their own.
Lapore's script has some clever dialog and witty banter. However, the fact that all four ladies are preoccupied with regrets from their past and constantly try to top one another makes for a melodramatic plot. By the end of the intermissionless piece, everyone has either had a breakdown or recalled a stressful situation they've had to deal with. Even a carefree ride on the Ferris wheel ends in a half-hearted suicide threat. In the end, it's too much to deal with, and the tacked-on happy ending -- a la "Crimes of the Heart" -- offers an unbelievably easy resolution.
Meggan Jayne Christman helped the histrionics by keeping conversations natural and nuanced and casting actresses who successfully modulated the emotional rollercoasters that the characters have to endure. Hovel was an independent firecracker as Toni, who is dead set on leaving her hometown and becoming a hairdresser in the Big Apple. Carter realistically conveyed the growing bitterness of her character, and Ryan effectively conveyed the effects of hard choices and hard liquor. Rodriguez was the calmest of the bunch, quietly creating a portrait of a woman who has had enough and took desperate measures to cope.
Sets by Tom Harlan and lights by Brian Hamill went a long way to suggesting the outdoor setting of the play. Director Christman utilized period music to great effect as sound designer, and the props by Renee Jones definitely made an impact when they got strewn about the stage in a moment of rage.
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Copyright 2003 Elias Stimac