The good news -- the very good news, in fact -- is that Don DiGiulio and Tressa Glover have returned! After working in Chicago for a few years, the couple have come home and resurrected their theater company No Name Players, whose production of Big Love four years ago I still get chills thinking about.
As the initial outing of its rebirth, the company stages David Lindsay-Abaire's Wonder of the World. And that's the less-than-good news. Lindsay-Abaire is the writer of Fuddy Meers, Kimberly Akimbo and Rabbit Hole -- and to tell you the truth, I could take or leave those three as well as this one.
My problem with Lindsay-Abaire (and I guess it is my problem, since he has won a Pulitzer) is that everything he writes reminds me of Christopher Durang ... which isn't surprising, since he was Durang's student at Julliard. Durang, of course, is famous for acid-drenched, blistering comedy barely hiding the overwhelmingly sorrowful misery underneath. Lindsay-Abaire is like a pale carbon of that: goofy humor hiding non-specific angst.
Wonder of the World is about a woman who runs away from her marriage and into the arms of an assortment of oddball characters. That is also the description of Fuddy Meers, Lindsay-Abaire's most popular play. Meers was produced before Wonder, but I suspect Wonder was written first because it feels so much like something from an inexperienced writer.
So, no, I'm not what you'd call a Lindsay-Abaire fan. But there's no denying that, when he's at his best, he can write some very funny jokes and whimsically zany situations.
And it is during those moments that this production shines. DiGiulio directs with a very specific and forceful hand; this production is filled with small, miss-them-if-you-blink moments that give this shallow script some texture.
On John E. Lane Jr.'s wonderful set, DiGiulio directs a thrillingly able cast who play the comedy nearly flawlessly. Watching David Flick, Gab Bonesso, Jody O'Donnell, Nikki McCrea, Lynne Franks and Jay Keenan is like a master class in timing and delivery. And they're all swirling around Glover as the wife-on-the-lam. Though she may start out emphasizing the perkiness a bit too much, she allows sadness to slowly shade the role and, by the end, is more moving than Lindsay-Abaire has any right to expect.
So welcome home, Tressa and Don. I look forward to whatever's next.
Wonder of the World continues through Dec. 14. Open Stage Theatre, 2835 Smallman St., Strip District. 412-207-7111.
- Photo courtesy of Nick Coppula.
- Woman on the run: Tressa Glover (left) and Gab Bonnesso in No Name Players' Wonder of the World.