I know I sound like a broken record, but just walking into the Douglas Morrison Theatre is an experience in and of itself. The preset stage in general has a far too underutilized function of telling you EXACTLY what you’re about to experience, but DMT makes absolutely sure the stage, lighting and sound tell a specific story from the get go. The environment sets a precise mood before you’ve even been reminded to silence your phones and the actors walk on. In the case of Wonder of the World, I knew I was sitting down to an off-the-wall, kooky, kitschy, colorful comedy from the moment I made my way down the aisle.
This is a tight, balanced small core ensemble. Simply put, they have a near perfect rapport with each other. Their slapstick is truly a genius and they expertly deliver the over-the-top farcical nature of the piece, while filling in the quieter moments with subtle expressions, vocalizations and superior comic punctuation. They handle the quick banter skillfully with priceless inflection and impeccable timing. They navigate complex humor just so damn creatively. Some jokes nearly slip under the radar while others are set up brilliantly allowing the inevitable anticipation of the punchline to almost be as hilarious as the actual delivery. There were an unexpected, abnormally high number of of laugh-out-loud moments for me, particularly in the second act.
While the plot centers around some very important life crises, obviously very serious in the world of the play and in real life, the writing and performances prevent us from being burdened with any of this heavy reality. Somehow we are sympathetic when it behooves us to be, and invested in the characters just enough before we take them too seriously, allowing us to laugh at some completely inappropriate things. The well written conversation of the script is served by a rapidly paced presentation and vividly embraced by the talented actors, designers, and totally smart direction. Black Comedy has its foundation in the shadows, but a shadow needs a light source and the best I can describe this piece is the feeling that we’re actually watching the bright light needed to create that dark comedy shadow. We can see the darkness, but it’s filtered through really funny, light comedy.
Special shout out to the wonderful sound design and clever scene transitions which both accented the previous moments and propelled us through the scene changes, allowing for no loss of momentum.
This is comedy done right. Bizarre, out of left field, off-color and even slightly deviant comedy, but never the less, totally done right. A refreshing 4 1/2 jewels out of 5 in the review tiara for a winning combination of talent, production values, and original material. What a ride! Wonder of the World plays through September 21st at the Douglas Morrisson Theatre in Hayward.