“Wdeunfrol Wdors (Language Art)”
8 Vignettes by Shel Silverstein & David Ives
Directed by Maureen Hawkins
At Stone Soup Theatre
Through November 11th
TICKETS: $14 – $25, $18 for seniors.
Thursdays after preview: Pay-What-You-Will
I was invited to come see “Wdeunfrol Wdors” by the artistic director of Stone Soup for their opening weekend. Just to put out any potential biases I may have: I have worked with Stone Soup briefly this year, helping them to promote this play as well as their upcoming annual holiday show, “Christmas in Whales.” Stone Soup Theater puts out adult shows like the one I watched last night, but they also produce many youth-oriented shows through their educational division, which I will be part of in the late Spring, music directing “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Everyone I have met at Stone Soup seems to be extremely passionate about theater and dedicated to their craft. But how are their shows? After all, passion and dedication only go so far as the work produced.
When you first step into the black box theater at Stone Soup, you may be taken aback at the small size of the space. Well, that is, if you’ve never stepped into a black box theater before. I’ve stepped into, acted and directed in black box theaters before, so I wasn’t surprised. What did surprise me, ever so pleasantly, was the creative use of the space throughout the show. “Wdeunfrol Wdors,” or Wonderful Words, features 8 one-act plays by the famous Shel Silverstein and David Ives. That being said, there were six major transitions during the play to go from one act to the next. The transitions were flawless and we barely had much waiting time. They made use of the boards at the top to hang tires, signs, and bags of laundry! Each act had its own specific look and feel and the ensemble cast were focused and efficient during set changes.
Perhaps, more importantly, the actors for the show were pretty phenomenal. James Lyle and Sarah Rose Nottingham impressed me right away with their ability to speak in an entirely new language, during the first one-act play, “The Universal Language” by Ives. As an actor myself, I knew how difficult it must have been for the both of them to memorize lines not even in regular English syntax! The play on words for this first act was really quite funny, but I think the humor is mostly intellectual and so if you’re not hip to some language arts references, you may not get everything being said. However, most of the content is understandable by every-day folks.
Rebecca Parker O’Neil was an absolute riot in the many roles she played. I definitely think I got the majority of my laughs from her. She was very watchable throughout the evening, but I have to say my favorite act she was in was “One Tennis Shoe” by Silverstein. I don’t want to give it away, but this act is about a couple having dinner and discussing the way people can change as they grow into their older years. She was freakin’ hilarious. “One Tennis Show” was easily my favorite act in the show. I laughed so hard through it!
Jaryl Draper was, in my opinion, the easiest to watch because of his total conviction. Perhaps the best act he played in was “The Lifeboat is Sinking” by Silverstein. The emotional roller coaster he endured as his wife, played by Erin Ison, gave him countless scenarios in which he had to make a decision. I’ve seen Draper perform in other shows around town, namely Shakespeare in the Park and he is always a top-notch actor. You know how you see some actors in shows and you can see them drop in and out of character? I’ve never seen Draper do that and to me, that is what makes a great actor; someone who never leaves their character at any point, no matter how difficult!
Overall, the ensemble acting was some of the best I’ve seen in a long time and I suspect that’s partly due to the great direction of Maureen Hawkins as well as the actors themselves. In the case of this show, the acting was phenomenal simply because of the sheer difficulty each act provided. For example, in the act “Words, Words, Words” by Ives, Lyle, O’Neil and Zachariah Robinson all spoke in three different European accents. Robinson’s Irish accent was, by far, the most convincing.
I don’t have much criticism for this show. Even the cookies sold at the refreshment stand were so good, they were definitely worth the $2 cost! My partner Lector bought three of them! I do think a can of soda could go for one dollar instead of two, but hey, it’s all for local, independent theater, right?
I encourage you to go see this show if you’re into great acting, language arts, or Silverstein and Ives. Regular admission is a little pricey, but definitely worth the money if you’ve got it. If you don’t, there are lots of options for seeing the show at a discounted price. In fact, every Thursday until the end of the run are Pay-What-You-Will! So come on down and see the show. It’s running until November 11th!