By Eric Overmyer
Directed by Laura Braza
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
In the Attic Theater Company’s production of Eric Overmyer’s démodé “On The Verge,” currently playing at Walkerspace, three women venture forth from the relative safety of late nineteenth-century Terra Haute, Indiana to explore the unknown realms of Terra Incognita. Although it is not entirely certain what provides the source of their motivation for wanderlust, they seem ready to move on from all things “home.” Fanny’s (Emily Kitchens) roots in Terra Haute are shallow: her marriage is less than satisfying and she does not even know who the current President is. Alex (Ella Dershowitz) finds the mores of her environment stifling and always wears a pair of pants under her dress – just in case. And Mary (Monette Magrath) has the innate yearning for the future that eventually keeps her on the path of discovery.
It is not long into their journey into Terra Incognita that it becomes clear this is more a spiritual and “imaginary” journey rather than a physical excursion, thus providing a possible rich connection to the current political, economic, and social upheaval in America and across the globe. The women begin to channel images from the future and struggle with having to “accept the future” without “embracing it.” However, because the trio ends up in 1955 via chronokinesis, the imagery in the script seems dated and not as readily attainable as it needs to be for a 2016 audience.
Mr. Overmyer’s language-based script becomes overburdened with alliterative plays on words and other common literary devices and – after time – waxes somewhat tiresome. His writing is not akin to Tennessee Williams’ or Edward Albee’s rich use of language; rather, it seems more like an exercise in freshman composition rhetoric. This is unfortunate since the playwright’s message about engaging the future while negotiating the accoutrements of our collective pasts (histories) is an important one.
Both acts are overly long and the second wobbles off base quickly after Scene 18 “Woody’s Esso.” The actors grapple with their characters in a heroic fashion and traverse their psyches with the same bravado and skill utilized in the imaginary journey to Terra Incognita. Unfortunately, there are occasions when the three capable actors seem to lose their footing. Perhaps director Laura Braza needs to provide more support in these scenes going forward. William John Austin capably portrays the various characters the women encounter on their journey and his ability to “find” these characters differs not on his craft but on what the script gives him to work with.
Julia Noulin-Merat’s multi-purpose set and Daniel B. Chapman’s lighting function well for the most part; however, there are places on set where the lighting truss framework is balanced on lighting cable causing the actors to lose balance. Emily Rosenberg’s costumes are delightful and appropriate to each period “visited.”
Laura Barza’s apologia for choosing to “dust off” Mr. Overmyer’s play is heartfelt and understandable. One wonders though if a different play might more honestly and helpfully address the nation’s – and the world’s – stark realization that in the current “second coming” things are falling apart, the center cannot hold, and “mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” Where is William Butler Yeats when he is needed most? Eric Overmyer’s 1985 – though counterpointing the present in many ways – is far from the oppressive angst of the world’s current population and his message seems to ring with a naïve innocence.
We need to “dream in a new language” just not the language extant in “On the Verge.” That said, the Attic Theater Company’s annual trek to New York City is always welcomed and Ms. Braza’s vision is worthy of the theatregoer’s ongoing support.