‘Wee-Pie’ bakes up big laughs
|Rivendell Theatre Ensemble presents|
Review by Keith Glab
American Wee-Pie is an unusual presentation for Rivendell, a theatre company dedicated to the work of female theatrical artists, as the protagonist is male and there are more than twice as many male characters as female characters in the play. Nevertheless, Lisa Dillman’s script provides interesting roles for the two female cast members and a humor-laden story with a strong message.
Zed (Kurt Brocker) leads an anonymous, menial existence at his Chicago job. During a visit to his small hometown of Gardensend, Zed runs into a high school acquaintance (Jennifer Pompa) who breaks him from his rut. Haunted by visions of a fellow co-worker (Keith Kupferer) who died forgotten and alone, Zed begins a transformation from a drone into a man who makes friends, utilizes his unique talents, and begins a new career that he enjoys.
The play’s blatant theme smacks you in the face from the very start; no audience members go home scratching their heads trying to understand this one. But the lack of thematic subtlety can be forgiven due to the script’s captivating characters and powerful humor.
The cast goes well beyond the laughs already present in the script, however. Brocker and Pompa form a fantastic double-act, with the shy and nuanced Zed playing off the vibrant, gregarious Linz. Their perfect comedic timing in the play’s opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the evening. When they are joined by Mark Ulrich as Pableau, a pretentious French baker who presents his cupcakes with pomp and circumstance, the triumvirate sizzles. A scene in which Pableau lets Zed taste his newest cupcake creation goes on for around ten minutes, but I could have watched it for another twenty. This production has an uncanny way of making mundane subjects both captivating and hilarious.
The strong cast rounds out with Jane Baxter Miller as Zed’s sister Pam and Keith Kupferer in multiple roles. Pam undergoes a similar catharsis to Zed’s, but this subplot is less developed. Baxter Miller meets the challenge of making her character’s transformation vivid yet believable. Kupferer succeeds in clearly distinguishing each of his three characters without letting any of them devolve into a caricature. Unfortunately, on opening night, he tripped up lines for each of his roles and Baxter Miller botched one badly enough to break character briefly.
The production team supports the cast with Jessica Carson’s splendid lighting effects and Regina Garcia’s stylized, functional set of which director Megan Carney uses every inch to great effect. A cemetery is even cleverly evoked when Kupferer, as burial property broker Pete Putterman, slaps a roll of sod onto the middle of the stage.
Just as Zed and Pam come to realize that it’s important to spend their lives doing things they enjoy and at which they are proficient, so too does Rivendell Theatre Ensemble appear to have a blast producing this relatively new work. Whenever a group of talented artists enjoy themselves as they collaborate onstage, it’s nearly impossible for the audience not to have a fantastic time as well.
American Wee-Pie continues through Date at theater, address (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, plus additional performances Saturdays at 4pm. Tickets are $30, and are available by phone (773-334-7728) or online here (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at RivendellTheatre.org. (Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes, includes an intermission)
behind the scenes
Megan Carney (director); Scott Verissimo (asst. director); Regina Garcia (set design); Jessica Carson (lighting); Lauren Lowell (costumes); Josh Horvath (sound design); Joanna Iwanicka (props); Stephanie Hurovitz (production stage manager); Jen Seleznow (production manager); Joe Mazza (photos)