WISH conceived and directed by Allyson McMackon (Theatre Rusticle at Dancemakers). Runs to November 13. See Continuing for details. Rating: NNN
Though academically interesting and occasionally incisive, Theatre Rusticle 's latest production, Wish , fails to make the passionate connection with the audience that previous pieces made. But director Allyson McMackon deserves praise for her daring.
In her program notes, she admits that Wish began as a little artistic dare to combine Restoration comedy with physical theatre, distilling a play to its most essential relationships, emotions, actions and text.
Restoration comedy was intensely physical, involving a complex body language understood by actors and audience. So it seems like a good match with Theatre Rusticle's mandate to engage audiences with spare and usually spectacular performances.
Here, stylized movements the exaggerated sweep of blush onto a cheek, the jerking up skirts, raucous, carefree dancing and manic conga lines help reveal the inner dealings of a scene, giving a psychological reading to William Congreve's original work, using the body instead of words to express nuance and subtext.
The basic plot goes like this: Wish ( Brooke Johnson ), a widow, loves Mirabell ( Mike McPhaden ), a young rake, who loves Millamant ( Emily Hurson ), Wish's niece. Mirabell woos Millamant and does Wish the indignity of saving her bacon from her devious son-in-law Fainall ( Noah Kenneally ). Wish, though saved, remains alone.
Johnson's stance alone shows that something inside Wish has been permanently shrivelled. Half crouched and taking small steps to avoid dislodging her heavy wig, she expertly conveys deep bitterness and loneliness.
The older woman's feelings are important all the way through the second act, but Wish doesn't take centre stage until halfway through the first act. Subplots sprout like weeds before she even appears onstage, and the movement which in other Theatre Rusticle pieces serves to centre and focus the story is confounding until then.
Finally, the piece escapes its brain and connects with its heart.