Terra Incognita

On the Verge

Written by Eric Overmyer
Directed by Portia Krieger
20% Theatre Company (www.twentypercent.org)
WOW Café Theatre, 59-61 E. 4th Street
Non-Equity production (May 17-19, 24-26, 31, June 2, 7, and 8; 212-777-4280)
Review by Byrne Harrison

When listening to the wonderful words and phrases in On the Verge, it doesn’t take long to figure out that Eric Overmyer loves and truly appreciates language. From ‘mighty Silurians’ to ‘dirigible’ to ‘Girls-A-Poppin,’ the words just beg to be savored. Unfortunately, what is a delight to the ear can prove to be a challenge for the tongue. Such is the case with 20% Theatre Company’s production, currently running at WOW Café Theatre.

The play itself is delightful and still relevant some 20 years after its first production. Three intrepid Victorian women, adventurers all, set off to explore the last undiscovered land – Terra Incognita. As they make their way deeper and deeper into the bush, encountering a strange variety of characters, it becomes clear that they are moving not only through Terra Incognita, but through time, fast forwarding through the decades. As they wade through the flotsam and jetsam of the future, they learn about their true natures and the price one pays for exploration.

The actors playing the three explorers, Nina Morrison, Johanna Weller-Fahy, and Julie Baber, are in most ways just right for their roles. Morrison is outstanding as the easily flustered Alexandra, the explorer who dreams of writing music. Weller-Fahy is imposing as the indomitable, self-righteous Fanny. Baber, playing Mary, at once the most level-headed and most struck by wanderlust, gives a very solid performance. Though their performances are generally good, especially in having a proper Victorian attitude, the language doesn’t flow trippingly off their tongues, as it must in a show like this. At times, it gets away from them causing them to stumble on the words, though this is less of a problem with Baber.

In part, this is made more noticeable by the fourth actor in the production, Cliff Campbell, who plays Alphonse the Cannibal, Mr. Coffee, a Yeti, and a host of other odd and fantastical characters. He has no problem with the language, accents, or attitude that the characters call for and gives a wonderful performance.

Director Portia Krieger does a good job using the fairly narrow space to full advantage, though some of the blocking seems awkward, especially the use of the far edges of the stage for soliloquies. However, her use of choreography – most notably while the ladies are blown about on a frozen glacier – is wonderful and adds some interesting flavor to a few of the scenes.

Leslie Delavan’s set, featuring a topsy-turvy mix of tchotchkes from various times and places, is a nice touch. Also worth noting are the marvelous costumes by Denise Malroney, especially those for the scenes set in 1955.

While at times the production feels a little under-rehearsed, it is nonetheless a respectable production of an engaging play.

Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 1

Acting: 1

Sets: 1

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1

Copyright 2007 Byrne Harrison

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