Fringe review: Wagon Play

Outdoor immersive show sends up the cult culture of charismatic leaders

WAGON PLAY by Ben Hayward (Theatre By Committee) At Majlis Arts Garden (163 Walnut). July 13-14 at 8 pm, July 15 at 5 and 8 pm. See listing. Rating: NNNN

This immersive outdoor experience takes the form of a Resetting Ceremony reminiscent of Scientology’s “going clear” in which disciples of The Way strive for levels of self-actualization by rejecting the past.

Within a garden setting we all worship at the altar of cult leader Amber Moon (Emma Banigan), a severe boss in a sparkly jumpsuit who can belt a pop ballad if necessary. Her acolytes – ranging from elegant drag queen Sasha (Brendan Kinnon) to lovable loser Klikey (Katherine Cappellacci) are competing for a chance to “level up” the chain of truth actualization by presenting arguments for the “6 Freedoms.”

Within its relentless barrage of pop references, Wagon Play offers some astute and funny commentaries on celebrity culture. I especially loved Alexis Gontan as Beyoncé in her understated Freedom from History routine (“take what you need to make what you want”). Steve Jobs, Kanye West, Cher and the Kardashians also crop up as the cast sings and dances their way to Full Truth Actualization (“we’re all individuals and no one else matters”).

The concept could go bigger and even sharper, but it’s still fun, with lots of details gleaned from the cult culture of charismatic leaders. Wallflowers need not worry – an induction process determines who’s up for participation. (Tip: Level 1s get to just sit on chairs and watch).

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