At 7 p.m., I took my seat in Haugen Theatre, not knowing what to expect based on the ambiguous posters featuring floating Barbie heads. The lights dimmed, Nancy Sinatra began to play, and in the next two hours I laughed, I gasped, I cried. Well, maybe I didnt cry. I did, however, get to watch someone else cry, which is almost as good. I am speaking, of course, about last weekends run of senior director Max Wojtanowicz production, Wonder of the World.
Wonder had several things going for it from the beginning. Haugen was an ideal, intimate setting for the relatively small cast and the emotional script. The show had a strong cast for its interesting (although often verging on ridiculous) characters.
At first the story seemed to be fairly basic. A discontented woman, played by Cassie Fox 06, leaves her heartbroken husband Kip, Jared Irwin 06, in search of clarity, wanting to make up for what she sees as lost time.
Armed with a life to-do list and optimism bordering on obnoxiousness, she is soon joined by a reluctant, suicidal alcoholic, played hilariously by Maren Searle 08. Their search for destiny brings the two women to Niagara Falls and in contact with a foray of quirky characters: the seemingly-perfect Captain played by Stuart Shrimpton 06, the adorable absent-minded and elderly private investigator and his abusive wife with a heart of gold (Josh Vogen 07 and Vanna Blomgren 06), and a tourist-waitress-helicopter pilot-clown-marriage counselor played by the versatile Kate Olson 06.
Add to these memorable characters the catchy soundtrack, entertaining scene transitions complete with dance moves, and a script chock full of awkward encounters, and you have a good view of Wojtanowicz production.
It is almost impossible to decide which part of the show was funniest. Perhaps it was the ridiculous coincidence of connected pasts and the tragic death of a Costco peanut butter jar. Or maybe it was the video clip of Kips weeping upon being abandoned by his wife. Then again, it may have been the simultaneous staging of three themed restaurants and Olsons ability to be a unique waitress (or wench or squaw) for each.
Whatever the case, the word weird seems an unavoidable adjective in evaluating the production on a whole. Considering that Kip confesses to eating Barbie heads and passing them for sexual pleasure, I think thats only fair.
Certain relationships and situations were too strange to be taken very seriously, leaving the audience almost unprepared and unwilling to expect a serious ending.
That said, the final scene of a suicide stopped by fate brings the real messages of the play above the sexual deviancy and the funny wigs. What the characters of the play realize as it concludes with a cliffhanger (or waterfall-hanger, in this case), is that life, no matter how ridiculous and uncertain, is all we have.