The TITANIC THEATRE COMPAY prides itself on producing bold, cutting edge plays. Naturally playwright David Lindsay-Abaire came to mind. He’s equally adept at absurdist humor (like FUDDY MEERS) as he is with pathos (THE RABBIT HOLE). His wild WONDER OF THE WORLD (@ Arsenal Arts Center through Aug. 9th) falls into the FUDDY MEERS category, with escaping wives, a trailing husband, bumbling private detectives and a plunge over Niagara Falls.
Titanic director Adam Zahler has assembled a crackerjack cast to navigate the swirling waters of upstate New York and although WONDER has its madcap moments, it doesn’t quite reach the comic pitch of FUDDY MEERS. Where the latter is refreshingly zany, WONDER is creepily bizarre at times. I know, the playwright is just pushing the envelope but for me to laugh at a Joseph Mengele reference, it has to be more than a cheap joke. (Mel Brooks proved that Nazis can be funny but Brooks has a point on the axe he’s grinding.) The same can be said for the icky Barbie material: gross, yes; hilarious, no.
Mind you, there’s a lot of WONDER that does hit the mark, chiefly because of the cast’s spot on, tongue-in-cheek delivery. Alisha Jansky, who plays the jaded “Gabby Hayes” sidekick to Meredith Saran’s nutty wanderer, has as Hayes would say “the beauty part.” She’s the character who moves the (watery thin) plot along by obsessing about the Falls—and by spilling the beans midway through, she brings all the parties together.
Laurie Singletary and Damon Singletary are a delightful duo as the Keystone Cops on the scent of Johnnie McQuarley’s missing wife; Alissa Cordeiro is a treat as the dubious shrink/clown (and wiseacre waitresses) but it’s Matthew Zahnzinger whose tour de force as Cap’n Mike makes WONDER work.
The Titanic Theatre Company’s WONDER OF THE WORLD ought to be a barrel of laughs. Instead it’s a mixed bag of chuckles.