Ensemble Theatre’s “Miracle & Wonder” is a Wacky Comedy, Smartly Written
By Marjorie Preston
Ensemble Theatre’s current production, the World Premiere of “Miracle & Wonder,” by local playwright Jonathan Wilhelm, is a wacky comedy, smartly written and expertly acted, even though some of the explanations for events come late in the game and are a bit lengthy.
“Miracle & Wonder” is a play about a lot of things: two estranged sisters, Noreen (Lissy Gulick) and Ruth (Anne McEvoy), two best friends, Bernadette (Agnes Herrmann) and Malcolm/Polly Esther (Tim Tavcar), family adopted and real, those left behind, and a mysterious stranger Ziv (John Busser), for good measure.
Bernadette, an uber-organized Kindergarten teacher raised by Jehovah’s witnesses, lives happily with her Jesus-loving mother-in-law, Noreen, as her husband travels for business, but things begin to unravel when she finds out that her husband and mother-in-law may not be who they claim to be. As Bernie visits her friend Malcolm, a cross-dressing man who cares for the dying and complains he’s always “stuck with dead people’s shit,” Noreen’s sister, Ruth, estranged for fifty years, is busy looking for Noreen.
Ruth brings in tow a sort of surrogate son, Luke (Curt Arnold), a single dad now raising a precocious teenage daughter, Sarah (Katie Wilkinson), after his partner, Tim, passed. Sarah’s more cautious friend, Aliyah (Lauryn Hobbs), bears witness to the scene that unfolds when a mysterious stranger, Ziv, begins telling parables to this group.
Gulick is perfectly cast as salt-of-the-earth Noreen, and McEvoy is a bold, yet caring Ruth. Their reunion at the end of act one is touching. It is fun to watch Hermann’s exasperation at the straits she’s in as Bernie, or to guess what Busser is up to as he plays Ziv as, well… whoever people think he is.
Director Ian Hinz tames this series of vignettes that twists and turns and eventually ties together. He has brought a very strong cast for the effort in this heady, quirky play that touches on several holiday themes. As set designer, Hinz has created a rustic cabin feel for the opening scene, with pine walls and doors, comfy sofa and Christmas tree trimmings on the floor. Set pieces and changes for the other scenes are simple and still evocative.
“Miracle & Wonder” can be a heady, abstract concept. But it can also be something right in front of us, if we choose to bear witness about the mysteries of life and those along for the journey.
“Miracle & Wonder” runs through December 2, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at 2843 Washington Boulevard, Cleveland Heights. There will not be a performance on Thanksgiving. For tickets, call (216) 321-2930 or visit www.ensemble-theatre.org. The play contains adult language and themes.