Wordiness wears on audience in ‘On The Verge’
WATERTOWN — How would you or I cope if somehow we were to find ourselves, through some miracle, thrust many decades into the future?
Three very different adventure-seeking American women from 1888 set out for “Terra Incognita,” somewhere in the Pacific, but become hilariously entwined with the U.S. circa 1955 in the New Repertory Theatre’s production of Eric Overmyer’s fantasy/comedy “On The Verge.”
The three explorers are Mary Baltimore (Paula Langton), Fanny Cranberry (Adrianne Krstansky ) and Alexandra “Alex” Cafuffle (Christine Hamel).
The women are as different as can be — spinster Mary, the married, more conservative Fanny and the younger Alex, who loves anything new, especially words — are of a Victorian era when independence was not encouraged in women. Indeed, they were encouraged to stay close to home and hearth.
They have their quirks, Mary, for example, explores the mating habits of various creatures, sort of the replacement for the physical intimacy she hasn’t found in life. Fanny is the conservative sort, the only one married.
As the proper Victorian ladies of the day, they eschew the comfort of trousers in favor of the corsets and bustles of the day, which makes their time travel all the more strenuous, but one must keep up appearances.
Their eventual arrival in the U.S. of the 1950s gives Overmyer a chance to flood the stage with pop culture references and the women to revel in their discoveries. How you gonna keep them down on the farm once they’ve discovered the joys of Cool Whip right out of the container?
There are cute titles on screens adjoining the state denoting scene change , and the 50s tunes come spilling out as if from a diner jukebox. It’s clever, especially with the wordplay from Overmyer, who wrote “On the Verge” in 1985 and has successfully written for acclaimed TV shows such as “The Wire,” “Law and Order,” and “Treme,” but it does lose momentum during an overlong second act, especially when Ben Evett is not onstage .
And while each of the three female leads is quite strong in her own way. “On The Verge” benefits from the versatility of the gifted Evett, who morphs seamlessly into seven very different roles. They include a carnivorous German, Franny’s husband, Grover, a Yeti, the angel of death, hilariously named “Mr. Coffee” a rapping, toll-collecting bridge troll, a down-home, Jim Nabors-like gas station attendant and Nick Paradise, the ultimate “lounge lizard” who brings out the romantic side of Fanny.
Cristina Todesco’s set is futuristic — probably a tribute to the idea of time travel — even if the piece winds up in a retro 1955. In the beginning, there are multitudes of sliding glass panels covered with bubble wrap, and many white chairs hanging from the ceiling. After intermission, the stage is festooned with dozens of glass globes, some clear, some frosted. The otherwise bare stage offers the actresses just a chair apiece to rest, reflect, and comport themselves through time, aided by their parasols.
In the end, “On The Verge” is dogged by Overmyer’s wordy excesses, which can’t be hung around the neck of Director Jim Petosa. And it wears on the audience in the second act.
The New Repertory Theatre production of Eric Overmyer’s “On The Verge.” Directed by Jim Petosa. At The Mosesian Theatre at the Arsenal Center for the Arts through May 25. http://www.newrep.org.