There are dozens of plays, films and TV shows and whatever that talk about teens, just as much about twenty-somethings; and then there’s thirty-somethings. But there is a crack in the middle of this mess that no one ever shows us: the twenty-something-but-afraid-about-approaching thirty-something generation. This is a group brought up on AIDS and CGI. This group, hopelessly middle-class, did not have enough fun in high school and college, to let it go and join the workforce. This is a group that missed out … on … something … not sure what … because they missed out on it!
A Wendy Story, written with wit and bite by Natalie Underwood grabs a handful of this general and gives them its due.
Choosing the story of Peter and Wendy was a great choice as a parable foundation. The play presents to us Wendy, now an executive assistant for an unbearable ogre of a boss and sharing an office with a timid colleague (Captain Hook with back-problems and Nana, the faithful but somewhat silent friend). But something is not right in Wendy’s life. Something was missing. We learn early-on that her romantic entanglements were less-than-satisfying and her cloistered upbringing left her with longings. Enter Pete and the Aimless Youth (brilliant). A grungy group of drunken man-children who commandeer a theater and – what a surprise – start a band. With one line, Author Natalie Underwood sums up a generation. While held in the air by Pete (yup, there’s the source material) she screams, “if this is what irresponsibility feels like then I love it.”
Yasmeen Jawhar’s powerful stage presence and expressive countenance played like a famed silent film actress, telling us a new story with each blink. She captured a girl at the cross-roads of life excellently. Her officemate, played with demure by Jen Perney, gave us the innocence beautifully but needed more back-story – if not in the dialogue then in her inner-life performance. At first, Bill Chambers as Jason Hookman appeared one-note, screaming at the top of his lungs a bit much, but as the play progresses we see that is just a ruse to catch us off guard so, when he suddenly delivers an uproarious line at lower decibels, we roar with laughter. Pete and the band, played truly to perfection by Joe Yoga, Brian Douglas, Marlon Kaltenborn, Ben Williams, and the abundantly talented Sonseray Talbot-Reed, wandered and wrestled, drank and groped, fell and flew and never lost our attention. What made them truly remarkable was they would then break into well-played and well-composed music perfectly suited for the play and the mood. Debby Bell as Tinx, a promiscuous fairy for the 21st century, was like the 11:00 number of a musical: highly welcome, powerful, and leaving us wanting more.
Underwood (who also directed the piece) made remarkable use of the locale making a bar that looks like a theater into a theater that looks like a bar.
There are minor flaws – true: sometimes the band’s hi-jinx covered powerful lines; scene changes (fun to watch the band mates head-bang while set-changing) could have been done differently; and the play could have been a 90-minute one-act thus avoiding intermission, but this is really minor when you consider the great material and its execution.
Underwood’s play packs a powerful punch as we join Wendy on a journey all of us who were born between Star Wars trilogies should take.
This would make a great independent film.
Saniyah Murdock writes on women in the arts in PanGaia, Cahoots, and Bitch.
She is thrilled to now be part of Drama-Queens.
Editor Natasha Dawsen welcomes Saniyah Murdock to DQ’s writing staff