Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wickets (3LD)

By Leah Carr
• very cool environmental theatre • deftly acted • surrealism that makes sense • get there early for a good seat and beware, they're a little uncomfortable

BOTTOM LINE: A show with a brain and a soul.

So, really honestly, when I was hanging out waiting for the show to start I was a little worried that Wickets (conceived, created, and directed by Clove Galilee and Jenny Rogers) would be little more than premise and gimmicks - what with the cast (already in their 1970's airline stewardess characters) taking our coats and checking our "boarding pass" tickets. Then, as I was reading the directors' notes, I was more than a little concerned - a singing angel as a woman's subconscious? There's a lot that could go sour with that.

So I was really happy to be dead wrong.
Let me tell you how cool and smart this show is. This production is an exciting example of how "?!" moments can actually work to tell a story - moments when, say, a singing angel (Lucas Steele) appears draped over what appears to be a celestial lifeguard perch (appropriate) or when the plane turns into a croquet field. I guess I should mention that the theater is set-up as an airplane cabin, complete with doming, class curtains, and in-flight refreshments, with the aisles used as the playing space. I should also mention a wicket is the archway through which croquet balls are hit, as well as a portal or gateway between two, ahem, planes of existence. The world that the play creates has such a heightened reality that it slips into that other realm, that sort of surreal, place, not jarringly, but somehow logically. Yes you can tell when it's happened, but you're generally not left scratching your head trying to figure out how or why.

The actresses, a very strong ensemble lead by Lee Eddy, deftly flip between their characters' subconscious and the quite literally painted face they present to the passengers. Usually the hallmark of this convention is a sharp juxtaposition between the two, which sometimes comes at the expense of a consistent characterization. The women here manage to find the range between hysteria, detachment, genuine vulnerability and, in that, genuine strength, without becoming two different people. Quite a remarkable feat.

Jenny Rogers' script, adapted from the Maria Irene Fornes play "Fefu and Her Friends" examines the inner lives and public personas of a crew of stewardesses (pointedly not flight attendants) in the 1970's on a transatlantic flight from New York to Paris. The play is set at the cusp of the Women's Movement in one of the country's most sexist industries. I was, frankly, worried that it would take a turn toward the bitter and angry. And, while there is anger - most notably in the blatantly misogynistic "prayer" one of the characters offers - there is enough weight behind it that it serves the story and saves the show from the horrorland of agit-prop theater.

Wickets is realized with compassion, intellect, and grace on nearly every point. I would warn, however, that while the plane set-up is pretty ingenious from a storytelling point-of-view, the seats actually get pretty damn uncomfortable about 40 minutes into the show. Go anyway.

(Wickets plays at the 3LD Arts and Technology Center, 80 Greenwich St at Rector Street, through January 25th. Show times are Thursday through Sunday at 8pm. Tickets are $18: call 212.352.3101 or visit

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