Saturday, October 04, 2003

Wait! (TITLEWave Theatre)

Acting in ‘WAIT!’ exceeds script

It seems ironic in this era when some local theatres are disbanding or cutting their seasons due to the financial crunch that a new performance arts company would blossom forth. Believing that Cleveland has a strong theatre tradition and had a need to enhance local offerings by prvoiding a place for new, untested plays to be produced, TITLEWave Theatre, the brain child of Gregory and Jean Marie Vovos, has emerged.

Having been the co-producer, along with Wayne Turney, of Lorain County Community College’s “New Ohio Play Festival,” I am aware of the difficulties of not only getting a new project off the ground, but of sustaining it. It can only be hoped that the Vovos’s adventure sails forth on a tidal wave of success.

They have chosen to mount Julie Jensen’s ‘WAIT’ as their first venture. Ms. Jensen has a Ph.D. in theatre and has taught playwriting at various universities including heading the graduate playwriting program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It is there that Greg Vovos met her and decided to produce and direct one of her shows.

In spite of her credentials, if ‘WAIT!’ is typical Jensen, then there is much to be desired in her style. The play rambles, leaving the audience wondering what it is all about. Yes, the central character, Wendy Burger (yep, that’s her name), has a coming of age experience, but so what? If this is intended to be a play of character studies, only Wendy seems to be a complete character. All of the others are prototypes, paper cut outs of people. Do we really care about any of them? Carrying about, identifying with, feeling empathy toward the characters is the central building block of good theatre. This is almost missing in ‘WAIT!.’

In spite of the play, the production is worth seeing for the performances and Vovos’s directing skills. He gets everything he can from the script, plus some. He is aided by a very talented cast.

Jennifer Clifford is charming, sensitive, and endearing as Wendy, a shy young woman adrift, but focused on a career in the theatre. Randy Rollison transfers between three different characters with ease.

As Wendy’s loutish, hard drinking dad, he is Archie Bunker at his verbal worst. As Lu, a flamboyant gay theatre director, he is a mincing delight. As Hazar, a nasty, almost comatose foreigner, he is compelling. This is a fine performance.

Meg Chamberlin plays two roles with complete separation. Her Floating Pinata Head is a Kathryn Hepburn-type theatre diva on her worst day and her meat cutter Modesto is properly tramp-like.

Marni Task is endearing as the cheerleader/actress O Vixen My Vixen. She does, however, lose some of her appeal in the closing scenes of the play as she has trouble making the transitions between the air-headed teenager and the resigned-to-the realities-of-life woman.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: TITLEWave Theatre has undertaken an important share with audiences new, untried plays. It is to be expected that they will experience highs and lows as they bring these untested works to the stage. If the production qualities of ‘WAIT!’ continue, audiences can look forward to high quality on-stage work in spite of potential script weaknesses.