Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: Totes Not in Kansas

Unless you’ve been living under a rock and have no sense of popular culture then you’re well aware of the story of Dorothy and pals, also known as “The Wizard of Oz”, and there’s no need for me to recap the story. If you have been living under a rock, welcome to the surface, and to some up the source material, Kansas girl Dorothy and her dog Toto are transported to the mysterious land of Oz where she accidentally kills the Wicked Witch of the East. Her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, vows revenge on the teen murderer. But before she can, Glinda, the good witch, sends Dorothy on a scavenger hunt down the Yellow Brick Road to find the Wizard of Oz. Along the way she meets the brainless Scarecrow, the heartless Tin Man, and the cowardly Lion. They meet the Wizard, who’s not all he’s cracked up to be, and defeat the Wicked Witch by drowning her, all while Dorothy realizes it was all a dream. Trippy, right? Perfect piece to turn into a modern remix, right? You would think.
Haberdasher Theatre took the L. Frank Baum classic and transported it to modern day NYC. The program note gives a detailed description of how it’s going to work. Spunky Dorothy meets gun-wielding Glinda, drama queen Wicked Witch of the West “Side”, starving artist Scarecrow, emotionally damaged Tin Man, Prozac dependent Lion, and the not so wonderful Wizard. Sounds like it should work, right? Unfortunately the execution was so far off that the program note was a stretch at best. Taking the beloved story and playing with it is a risk, but could have worked if done with care. With an adaptation by Jeannette Jaquish and Hollie Klem and directed by Klem, many of their ideas seem to have never been lifted off the drawing board. There were definitely shades of a remix in The Wonderful Remix of Oz, but it was too much like watching the movie with actors in brilliantly designed modern costumes. The choices and references didn’t quite resonate as well as they needed to. The adaptation wanted to be trippy and dark. Instead, we saw a funny take up that tried too hard. Luckily the story is recognizable that the twists on the original were easy to follow, despite how extraneous they may be.
With wild ideas to play with, the cast made some choices themselves. Not all for the best. Pamela Karp took The Wicked Witch of the West to the worst possible place, making her almost unrecognizable. Alex Coelho’s heartless Tinman lacked emotion, taking the emotionally damaged bit too far. Amy Lee Sanchez as Glinda gave the good witch some sass, though with her fabulous pink gown, she could have given her more bite. Jennifer Michaels did a fine job as Dorothy. There was, however, one giant standout in the company. Jeff Foley as the Scarecrow was extraordinary. With his brilliant comic delivery and commitment to the physicality of the character, Foley shines as the highlight of the production. Only Katie Grammes wonderfully whimsical costumes could overshadow Foley’s performance.
The Wonderful Remix of Oz is not your nostalgia Oz. It had its moments where it worked, but overall it fell under the rainbow.