We’ve probably all had crazy summers — summers of unexpected meetings and self-discovery. I would guess that few to none have ever lived in the back of a UPS truck, shoveled bat guano out of an opera house or played the role of “Lisa” in Hamlet. If you have — contact me. Seriously, I’d love to write something about your experience. You would be out of luck, though, if you wanted to publish a play about it — I’m afraid Julie Jensen already captured these circumstances, plus a myriad of other implausible ones, in her brilliant little play “Wait!”
“Wait!” opened at the Rose Wagner Center on Feb. 22. The Pygmalion Theatre company put on the show, a non-profit organization “whose mission is to produce plays which reflect issues, concerns, and shared experiences in the lives of women.” The play follows Wendy Burger (don’t worry, the name gets the fast food restaurant jokes it deserves) as she navigates a summer that will prove to be a way station to the rest of her life. To please her drunken dad, Wendy auditions for acting bits at the old opera house she and her friend, Lou, are cleaning up. With no success at landing roles, although she tells her dad otherwise, she encounters Oh Vixen My Vixen. Yes, that’s the full name of the talented and deep actress, at least in Wendy’s eyes, who inspires her to take her life more seriously. She moves out of her UPS truck and into an apartment above an aging, Armenian couple and even gets the role of “Lisa” in Hamlet, even though Lou makes up the role just for her. Actually capturing the plot of this play would prove difficult. I mean, do you have hilarious scenes? You bet. Endearing, flirty moments between Wendy and Vixen? Absolutely. Conversations about Fruit Loops and God with her Armenian neighbors? Check and check. The focus of the play really revolves around the characters, their development and their interactions.
Wendy, the wide-eyed, callow main character, portrayed by Sydney Shoell, narrates to the audience as the play unfurls in a minimalist swirl. The cast of four adjusts their outfits and props as Wendy leads us from one scene to the next on the spartan stage. The cast completed the play with their palpable energy and, naturally, their versatility. As with the original production of this piece, only four actors play out the roles of eight characters. While Sydney Shoell and Daisy Blake Perry maintain the roles of Wendy and Vixen, Mark Brocksmith and Tamara Howell played three characters apiece. Howell portrays Modesto, Jenya and Floating Piñata Head, the virtuoso instructor. Brocksmith plays Wendy’s father, Hazar and Lou.
Because the pacing of the play doesn’t allow for the characters to go off stage to change, the fluid transformation between characters and scenes becomes an element of play. The simple set and storytelling aspects provide intimacy and an immersive experience. The set, designed by Thomas George, looks like a storage closet, a collection of unhinged doors, wheelbarrows and sheets, giving a sense that the characters are just scraping by with the tools provided to them. This seems to reflect on the story and Wendy as she reflects on this period of time that gave her the tools to move forward. For a sweet, comedic play, there were a number of surprisingly profound moments. The title itself calls back the idea of being in between the question and the answer, what Wendy calls the “wait.” I appreciate how the play pulls this off — it’s playful without being campy, and the characters felt real even in their extremes.
“Wait!” proves that theater doesn’t have to be serious as long as it is intentional. The engaging performances and consistently hilarious script made for an evening that flew by.
“Wait!” will be showing at the Rose Wagner Center until March 9. For ticket prices and more information, visit pygmalionproductions.org.