Trek dreck

On the Verge
or The Geography of Yearning

By Eric Overmyer
Directed by David Leidholdt
John Montgomery Theatre Co.
134 West 26th (626-7076)
Equity showcase (closes Dec. 20)
Review by Marshall Yaeger

The most inspiring thing about this oddly written comedy is that a New York company rediscovered it. Of course direction and acting with plenty of panache, as well as bargain-basement splendor in the technical departments, didn't hurt.

The play features a trio of female "National Geo"explorers jaunting through the Antipodes in the late 1880s, sans porters or sherpas. These remarkable creatures get tangled in ropes marching up and down chilling precipices and waded on their knees, pulling off the fungi from their corset stays.

Then, bit by bit, they find themselves bewildered by assaults from the shopworn kitsch and evanescent dreck of America's future, dodging "I Like Ike" buttons, fortune cookies, fur snowballs, and Yma Sumac CDs.

The author's whimsically "cacophonous echolalia" could really keep a serious critic chasing through atlases and spell-checkers to comment on the glacéed bees knees and yummy moose mousse.

But the skilled director's hand was sure, as his cast's umbrellas bushwhacked and tented them against the screaming jungle.

Alex McCord was an optimistic Sigourney Weaver Kodaking aliens, while Mary Alice McGuire played the kind of woman who could introduce croquet to headhunters and demand they play with wooden balls.

Renée Flemings played a full-figured suffragette-set explorer with an aversion to women's trousers. While on a bender with the future, she belched paroxysms of pleasure over mai tais while spooning foam on her cheeks, confusing Cool Whip with Noxema.

Bruce Katlin (whose talent was specially cited by this reviewer at the most recent OOBR Awards) could do no wrong in his portrayal of eight weirdoes ranging from Madame Nhu (funny to the fingernails) to "Nicky, owner of the Peligrosa Lounge and Grill."His special gifts excelled at doing slot machines and a cannibal who got totally into shmearing his hands and licking off the cream cheese.

Charles Townsend Wittreich, Jr. did wonders with the tiny space, building trap doors, a gang plank, and a fire in the floor while Andria Fiegel Wolfe's lighting cast stars all over his terra incognita's "green-jeweled jungle walls."

Mark Kobak humorously dressed the wanderers in stately velvet, as well as more modern garb as the play advanced into the 1950s. But who knows from which discard box he found Mr. Katlin's wonderfully smarmy purple velvet tux with lapels as wide as the Missouri?

Just what can you take away from this exploratory trek? That the world is full of wonders, the future isn't far away, and the brave new world ahead, as vulgar as it's bound to get, will be pretty nifty; but only when you first discover it.

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 2
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 1

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Copyright 1997 Marshall Yaeger