On The Verge is the 7th season opener for The Majestic Reader’s Theatre Company. And what an opener! Masterfully written by Eric Overmeyer, the play is language lover’s dream come true. The wit displayed by the three female Victorian travelers each with an extensive vocabulary perfectly crafted to suit their individual personalities was a delight! Set in the late 1800’s, the language is a colorful tongue twister of sorts. These three women are dangerously naive in their quests for adventure through the Terra Incognita. Tromping through the jungles, running into natives, and a small Yeti which they manage to scare away with their insistence on it coming closer. And the bridge troll. Ah, the bridge troll. Each of them describing stories of such to one another at the camp fire. One of them teaching cannibals how to play croquet, one of them being saved from certain death in quicksand due to her petticoat billowing out and keeping her afloat, and the other obsessed with rhyming and trousers all the while dreaming of a nice hot bath.
As the story moves along, it becomes clear each one is visited by a tidbit of information sent from the future. They find clues along the way in the form of an “I like Ike” button, an egg beater, and a National Review magazine. Visions from the future inspire them to keep going to see what lies ahead for them. There are also poignant moments when one the ladies is “visited” by a stranger to let her know her husband has passed on. It’s at this moment when the travelers realize they aren’t just receiving bits from the future, they are time traveling themselves toward it. The three women do finally find the future and it’s 1955. 1955 has everything they each need to embrace, not just accept, what’s coming. Love, career, and purpose. A great play, a fantastic script, and just plain fun way to spend the evening.
Jodi Altendorf plays Mary, the leader- if you will- of the three travelers. She seems to be the compass to their adventure keeping them focused with her adventure stories and staunch belief of proper ladies wearing skirts regardless of the circumstances. Jodi is a veteran Reader’s Theatre actor and is more than capable of bringing Mary to life while navigating the slippery slope of word play. She has a plethora of expressions to evoke laughter and understanding from the audience. Kathie O’Brien plays Fanny- 2nd in command- and offers juicy tidbits with the way she describes the natives and the future of literature as well as Cool Whip and a Jacuzzi tub. Her facial expressions run the gamut of judgment and ecstasy and everywhere in between. She is also a familiar face in Reader’s Theatre and it’s easy to see why. Arlee Olson plays Alex- the youngest and most curious about the future and the development of women wearing trousers. Arlee is new to me in Reader’s Theatre but she brings an energy and lightness to her character. Tom Haig plays all the male character bits with definite thought and care for each one to be their own. He’s a regular face in Reader’s Theatre and his ability to be a chameleon is a necessity in this play. Oh, and he plays the piano and sings, too. Yeah, he’s talented and definitely having fun here.
I was intrigued and surprised to see Tamara Alba listed in the program to read stage directions. (This is not a common event, even for this type of format.) What a perfect choice! Tamara is a force to be reckoned with. An experienced actor, she is not afraid to be big and bold as well as bring it down when necessary. She brought another layer to the story with her jungle sounds and her thoughtful yet deliberate narrative of the next chapter to the story. She was the only “character” free to move about the stage area and when she did, it was so well done. I worked with Tamara on my production of Approaching Simone. She brings everything to her work and it shows.
The use of projections with slides added a visionary element which carried an ease to the imagination of the audience. We were with the women as they traveled not just observers. I believe John Elliott out did himself with the slides. So well chosen for each scene. The props, from the pith helmets and egg beaters to the costumes “changes” for Tom, were carefully chosen and on point for this production. The use of color in the light design was well played as we got to feel the lush greenness of the jungle and red orange glow of the fire as well as the usual nice amber look making the actors all look nice and healthy. Sound design was quirky, as usual, as John Elliott always finds music references and sound bits a bit obscure mixed with ones you might expect. I think he does it on purpose to keep the audience engaged and off balance. It’s a favorite tactic of mine 🙂
The show runs long, almost three hours with the 15 minute intermission; but you don’t realize it until you look at your watch. The pacing is so good and the energy kept throughout, you don’t notice the time at all. A great production and a perfect start to the 7th season of the MRTC.
Majestic Reader’s Theatre productions occur the last weekend of every month. Coming in October, Stop Kiss written by Diana Son and directed by Kali Kardis. Click here to purchase tickets or to get more information about dates and showtimes. With only 50 seats available, these shows sell out, so unless you want to stand around hoping someone doesn’t show up, buy your tickets in advance!