On The Verge
by Eric Overmeyer Directed by Denni Don Hunting
Reviewed by Wayne Erreca (11-9-14)
Playwright George Bernard Shaw would have congratulated Playwright Eric Overmeyer’s magical and progressive enlightening play, On The Verge, that is, if he were still living. Shaw was a champion, in his Victorian day, for women equality rights in a world dominated by shortsighted men who eagerly chose to covet, domestic and political power, for their own advantage. He was famous for writing roles for actresses, such as Ellen Terry as Lady Cicely Waynflete in Captain Brassbound’s Conversion and Mrs. Patrick Campbell as Eliza in his fabulous Pygmalion. Shaw helped create theatrical women characters that weren’t only groomed trophies on Victorian pedestals, but gave them minds, and words to speak their feelings, and librating countless numbers of women who were in attendance of his many productions.
On The Verge is based on the lives of three independent Victorian women, Mary Kingsley, Fanny Bullock-Workman, and Alexandra David-Neel who courageously explored Africa, Asia, the Islands of the Pacific, and the American West, at a time in the 1800’s, when women were tethered indoors, instead of climbing mountains, or crossing raging rivers. The three fictitious characters Overmeyer invented are: Mary Baltimore (Nan Worthington), Fanny Cranberry (Alexandra Gude), and Alex Cafuffle (Jennifer Cummins) who are in search of the, imaginary and unknown region, Terra Incognita. He also added another actor who plays multiple characters: Grover, Alphonse, The Gorge Troll, The Yeti, Gus, Madame Nhu, Mr. Coffee, and Nicky Paradise (Don Kuehlhorn).
The costumes (Kathy Verstraete, Allyce Amidon), sound, (Gary Bolton), Special Effects (Don Kuehlhorn) and lighting (Bill Fishburn) are superb. This is a smart looking production and works well within its small stage area. Others investing their talents and time: Karla Fishburn (Asst. Director), June Neal (Producer), Wizard (Stage Manager), Michael Binstead (Hair/Makeup), Karen Gardner (Properties), Sherri Burford (Light Tech), Jeff Kroeger, Kerr Anderson (Set Construction), Peggy Shinn (Tech Assistant), Dick Cieslik, and Peggy Shinn (Running Crew).
In the Victorian Age, the writing of letters was an “art form”. In reading Shaw or others of that era, you will be surprised of the vocabulary they communicated with, such as: peregrinations, palaver, Anthropophagii, or Chronokinesis. On The Verge is chalked full of such rich and descriptive words, where at times you may wish you had a handy dictionary in your lap. Overmeyer had great fun while writing his play inserting an abundance of Word Play that is insistently shared among the three Lady Travelers. It’s a fast pace and you may miss a line or two, but don’t fret, it all comes out in the wash in the end.
The chemistry between Worthington, Gude, and Cummins is excellent! Their characterizations are delightfully portrayed with the right measure of humor and emotion. Director Denni Don Hunting choreographed their movements and physical business wonderfully. What would be ideal for this particular play would be staging it in a larger space, where multiple settings, props, and background lighting schemes could be presented. The intimacy of the Studio Theatre @ the Depot, unfortunately, is limited, but in facing these few challenges, Hunting and cast have created a marvelous presentation, that doesn’t lack in sheer fun, and entertainment. It is impossible to overlook the hilarious contribution of joyous laughter Don Kuehlhorn brings to his every scene. He definitely uplifts throughout, which was Overmeyer’s ideal intention, and proves to be quite the crowd pleaser.
On The Verge is a timely and important production, especially in our current political atmosphere, where women continue to be treated unfairly by a monopoly of men’s unwise decisions. Women, thankfully, have come a long way from the many social restraints they endured in the Victorian Age, but the struggle goes on. Shaw, if he were alive today, would still be writing, and talking on their behalf, of women’s inequality in society. In Overmeyer’s play, the three Lady Travelers, come across various items in their future, such as trousers and kitchen utensils, leading them into the 1950’s. The television shows I Love Lucy and Leave It To Beaver came to mind. In the play, reaching the 1950’s was a revelation by comparison to their dismal Victorian bondage. In our present day, we consider the 1950’s overly conservative, and better left behind in the history books. On The Verge is a remarkable reminder that the forces that deny women of equality may be currently rumbling in our present background, and that we all should adamantly continue searching for Terra Incognita, hand in hand, together.