“Wonder of the World” at River Street Playhouse is Lindsay-Abaire’s Signature Wacky
By Marjorie Preston
The Chagrin Valley Little Theatre’s production of “Wonder of the World” by David Lindsay-Abaire is a dark comedy with Lindsay-Abaire’s signature wackiness. The first act is more accessible than, say, his “Kimberly Akimbo,” as the characters seem like our neighbors or friends, but the second act drags.
When we meet wide-eyed Cass Harris (Kacey Shapiro), she is hurriedly packing to leave her stilted, neurotic husband Kip Harris (Jerry Schaber). She has discovered his secret sexual turn-on and, disgusted, she wants nothing more to do with him. She boards a bus for Niagara Falls, determined to cross off dozens of items on her bucket list. Cass befriends the suicidal and alcoholic Lois Coleman (Catherine Remick), who confesses she is planning to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
Cass convinces Lois to be her roommate and do some sightseeing first, and they encounter widower Captain Mike (Don Knepper), who helms the famous Maid of the Mist sightseeing boat. They also encounter Karla (Kathy McPeak) and Glen (Mark DePompei) an inept pair of private investigators hired by Kip to track Cass down. Along the way, they meet a series of five sisters: a sightseer, three waitresses and a clown therapist, all played in drag by the brave David Malinowski.
Shapiro is bouncy and bubbly as Cass, crossing into manic. Schaber plays Kip as a sad, scared, secretive man. Remick’s portrayal of Lois seems jaded and tough, but turns out to be thoroughly romantic at heart. The supporting cast does a fine job, with special note of Knepper as the sweet, hopeful Captain Mike and Malinowski, who plays the tough clown therapist as believable and just scary enough to keep the cast in a hotel room to sort out their damage playing the Newlywed Game.
Director Yvonne E. Pilarczyk has in “Wonder of the World” an engaging script with clever plot twists, plus a good cast to take on the challenge of Lindsay-Abaire’s unique voice. One wonders if the second act drags due to Lindsay-Abaire’s lack of editing, or if it just needed to be prodded along a little faster. Cast and crew provided all the props for this show, with a simple design of single set pieces like a bed or barrel that came on and off. Most set changes were quick, though there was one set change in particular going into a helicopter scene that was so long that the audience wondered aloud if it was intermission.
“Wonder of the World” is wacky fun with a veneer of darkness thrown in, but as previously stated, the second act drags, perhaps because of the volume of details Lindsay-Abaire has included, or perhaps due to slow pacing.
“Wonder of the World” runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through December 15th at the River Street Playhouse, 56 River Street, Chagrin Falls. For tickets, call (440) 247-8955 or visit www.cvlt.org. All tickets to the River Street Playhouse are $10. The play features adult language, adult themes and violence.