Ricci Mann, Sophia Kahn, Erin Malcolm, Camille Terilli, Paul Oliver Source: Courtesy of The Players

Review: 'Wonder of the World' Enjoys Spirited Performances, Endures Soggy Script

Joe Siegel READ TIME: 3 MIN.

David Lindsay-Abaire's "Wonder of the World" is a zany comedy that starts off with great promise before collapsing into sheer inanity.

Sophia Kahn plays Cass, who walks out on her hapless husband, Kip, (Kerstyn Leigh) in search of a new life. Cass befriends a woman named Lois while traveling by bus. The two take refuge in a dumpy motel near Niagara Falls. The bed is only big enough for one person, but there is plenty of free liquor in the mini-fridge.

Lois is an alcoholic who plans on committing suicide by going over the falls in a barrel. Like Cass, she is also running away from an unhappy marriage.

Meanwhile, a team of inept private investigators (Camille Terilli and Paul Oliver) are looking for Cass, who falls in love with the handsome captain of a tour boat (Tylar Jahumpa, filling in for Ronald Martin) and plans to run away with him, until Kip tracks her down and begs for forgiveness. It turns out Kip has a bizarre sexual fetish involving severed doll heads. Yeah, I couldn't believe it, either.

The show is frequently amusing, but goes completely off the rails in the second act. Would you believe a clown leading a group therapy session, followed by a cringe-inducing version of the Newlywed Game? This sequence seems to go on forever.

Many of the plot details are inexplicable. We are expected to believe that someone can die from a giant jar of peanut butter? The private investigators transition from owning a yarn store (!) to spending their days hunting down runaway wives? And how did Lois manage to lug a barrel onto the bus in the first place? Does Greyhound make special accommodations for suicidal women?

Director Richard Marr-Griffin gets some solid work from the performers. Kahn is an appealing and spunky presence; her Cass shares details of a family tragedy and ponders the existence of fate and circumstance. I also liked the work of Ricci Mann as Lois. Mann ("Wait Until Dark") doesn't hold back on showing the character's bitterness and self-loathing as she prepares to end it all.

Erin Malcolm does some real heavy lifting in multiple roles: a wacky tourist who gives her blonde wig to Cass, a loony helicopter pilot, and three waitresses, one of which is Native American (this results in some crass references to her culture).

Leigh, identifying as non-binary, does what they can with an unplayable role. Kip is completely pathetic, a whiny loser with no self-awareness. What Cass ever saw in him remains a mystery for the ages.

Costume designer Margaret Wolf's wardrobe choices are inspired. Lois wears tacky floral print shirts. She either requires the services of a therapist, or a savvy fashion consultant.

Lindsay-Abaire ("Good People") is a talented writer, but he really missed the mark this time. Late in the show, Captain Mike encourages everyone to put their problems aside and to savor the wonders of life, especially waterfalls. It's a nice sentiment drowned out (no pun intended) by a tsunami of absurdity.

After producing some superlative shows, it's unfortunate The Players have ended their season on such a low note.

"Wonder of the World" runs through May 19. The Players at Barker Playhouse. 400 Benefit St., Providence, RI. For tickets, visit www.playersri.org.

by Joe Siegel

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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