Wonder of the World

The Barker Players present a quirky barrel of laughs


The Players at the Barker Playhouse closes its 115th mainstage season with “Wonder of the World.” It’s a quirky play that takes the audience on a wild and whimsical journey filled with humor, heart and unexpected twists. Written by David Lindsay-Abaire, this comedy follows the adventures of Cass. She is a woman who embarks on a quest to find meaning and fulfillment in her life after discovering a shocking secret about her husband. The play is set against the backdrop of Niagara Falls. It’s a fittingly grand and awe-inspiring location that mirrors the emotional highs and lows experienced by the characters. It is the quirkiness of this play that makes it so enjoyable, which is also its greatest challenge. The play demands a cast that is evenly talented in order to bring it to life with energy, charisma and an engaging vibrance on stage. One of the aspects of the play is its witty and clever dialogue. Humor ranges from quick-witted one-liners to absurd situations. It is in the delivery from each character that makes or breaks this play or scene. The characters themselves are eccentric and also endearing, each with their own vulnerabilities and idiosyncrasies that make them relatable and lovable.

As the story unfolds, after leaving her husband, Cass’ journey of self-discovery begins as she encounters a colorful cast of characters who challenge her perceptions and push her out of her comfort zone. The role of Cass is beautifully portrayed by Sophia Kahn. She has a beautiful stage persona - both inside and out - with an infuriating naivety that sees the world she is about to discover with rose-colored glasses. Cass has a very long list of things she hopes to accomplish and as the play continues, Cass marks them off one-by-one. Khan is perfect in this role, engaging, funny, great comedic timing and thoroughly believable. Cass has a monster script to remember and deliver and Kahn nails it!

After leaving her husband, Cass meets Lois, played by Ricci Mann, a suicidal alcoholic who is traveling with a pickle barrel and plans to end her life riding the barrel over the falls. Cass immediately deems Lois her “side-kick” and through the play attempts to keep Lois from ending her life. Ms. Mann’s portrayal of Lois, unfortunately, was inconsistent. Playing an alcoholic is not easy, however, it was difficult to convince this reviewer that Ms. Mann understood or was directed adequately on what an alcoholic does, moves, vocalizes. Body language, movements and vocal delivery of an alcoholic require consistency to be believable. This is a talented actor. Either direction of the role or the understanding of the role is the flaw. Not the actor.

How did they get together?

Kerstyn Leigh in the role of Kip, the husband left behind, does an excellent job as the grieving spouse. Probably one of the quirkiest of the cast of characters. Leigh takes this role by the horns and gives a solid performance as the whiny, languishing husband with a very interesting erotic proclivity. One wonders how Cass and Kip ever got together!

Captain Mike, originally cast with actor Ronald Martin, who a week before opening, was stricken with a non-threatening ailment. The roll was taken over by Tylar Johumpa at the last minute. Captain Mike is Cass’ amore du jour as she relishes a short tryst with the Captain and tour guide of one of the Niagara Falls cruise ships. Although using an iPad during the show to read lines, Johumpa pulled the role off well with all the animation and absurdness deserving of Captain Mike. Bravo, Tylar! Well done.

Camille Terilli and Paul Oliver are Karla and Greg, a married couple who have been hired by Kip as private investigators to find his wife, Cass. The couple has had several businesses and failed at all of them. Hence, they are the worst private investigators you can imagine. Their schtick, though, is hysterical. Between Terilli’s in-your-face-bada-bing one-liners and Oliver’s laid-back dryness the two make a wild couple.

It is Erin Malcolm who portrays seven different characters in this play who is the theatrical stand-out from this reviewer’s perspective. Malcolm practically stops the show each time she is on stage. Each character, Barbara, Janie, Helicopter Pilot, Waitresses 1, 2 and 3, is different, thoroughly real and wildly risible! A truly gifted actor and deliciously fun to watch.

Barker debut for Richard Griffin

Richard Griffin makes his Barker Playhouse debut as director of this production. Griffin is well known as an award-winning art film director and has produced and directed approximately 30 films since 2004, and does a fine job directing his first stage production. As a talented film director, Griffin’s knowledge and skill set can provide a solid foothold for stage directing, especially in casting this play. Takes a certain blood type to both fully understand and to successfully portray these characters. That said, there were several distractions to the action/dialogue: 1) the set did not equal the talent of the cast. Better no set, or just set pieces than a distracting set. Both Cass’ apartment and the hotel room needed only furniture/set pieces and a door frame. 2) back-projection of the Falls over the set. Interesting concept, but distracting and it did not enhance or add to any scene. 3) if a hotel refrigerator opens up to the audience to show “the mother-lode” of liquor, that refrigerator needs to be packed with liquor and all the bottles need to be full. 4) Lois drinks Jim Beam. Everything she drinks should be brown. Tea would do it or coke. 5) The cruise, the helicopter and the restaurant scenes could easily have been set in front of a closed curtain. These small recommendations are not game changers. Talented Griffin should continue to stage-direct and to bring his unique style to local theaters.

Seasoned Stage Manager, Maxine Wolfson, maneuvers the cast and crew with aplomb keeping the comical chaos on stage flowing efficiently and effectively.

Wonder of the World is a delightful play that will leave you smiling long after the final curtain call. With a blend of humor, heart and bizarre charm, this is a production for anyone looking for an entertaining and uplifting theatrical experience. The play runs for one more weekend.

What: Wonder of the World

When:   May 10, 11 & 17, 18 at 7:30 p.m.
May 12 & 19 at 2:00 p.m.

Where: The Players at The Barker Playhouse
400 Benefit Street, Providence, RI 02903

Tickets: $30.00 (discounts for Military and Students)
Box Office: 401-273-0590


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