Review: Orville and Wilbur Did It! (The New Colony)

| July 8, 2014
Jessica London-Shields and Morgan McNaught star in The New Colony's world premiere of "Orville and Wilbur Did It!" by David Zellnik and Eric Svejcar, directed by Andrew Hobgood. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)        
Orville and Wilbur Did It!

Written by David Zellnik
Music by David Zellnik and Eric Svejcar  
Directed by Andrew Hobgood
at Signal Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice (map)
thru July 20  |  tickets: $10-$20   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
                   Read review 


Mishmash ending upends world premiere’s promising first act


Morgan McNaught, Joey Romaine, Josh Odor, Evan Linder and Kevin Stangler star in The New Colony's world premiere of "Orville and Wilbur Did It!" by David Zellnik and Eric Svejcar, directed by Andrew Hobgood. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

The New Colony presents
Orville and Wilbur Did It!

Review by Oliver Sava 

The world of children’s theater is one that is ripe for satire, so when I learned that The New Colony would be debuting a new comedy about the behind-the-scenes hijinx of a traveling children’s theater troupe, I was excited for the possibilities. Juxtaposing adult off-stage situations with the juvenile goofiness of on-stage performance is the ideal way to approach the concept, and the first act of David Zellnik’s Orville And Wilbur Did It! scores a lot of laughs through that contrast. The romantic and professional issues of five actors and their stage manager are presented side-by-side with excerpts from a silly, poorly researched bio-musical about the Wright Brothers, and anyone with a passing familiarity of children’s theater will find a lot to enjoy in the first act.

Kevin Stangler and Evan Linder in The New Colony's world premiere of "Orville and Wilbur Did It!" by David Zellnik and Eric Svejcar, directed by Andrew Hobgood. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)Then it falls apart in the second half. Josh Odor’s Scraggs is removed, costing the production one of its strongest performers, and is replaced by Alex Grelle as X, a thankless role that is primarily an outlet for scatological humor. A subplot involving stage manager Jen’s (Jessica London-Shields) adoption of an otter moves to the forefront, serving as a heavy-handed metaphor for the far-fetched dreams these performers have for their acting careers.

The major plot development of the second act—a potential trip to New York City for a two-week run of the lousy kids’ show—is enough to keep the audience engaged without throwing in bits that play like amateur sketch bits. If most of the second half was cut, this show could be a very fun 90-minute one-act, but it loses almost all the energy of the first act after misguided plot developments. The dip in quality after intermission is huge, but the strength of the first act shows that there’s plenty of potential in this script, especially with this ensemble of performers.

Evan Linder and Kevin Stangler do strong work capturing the sexual tension between Zack and Jasper, who also play the Wright Brothers, and there’s a softness to their scenes that captures the feeling of making a connection with someone on the road. Improv performer Joey Romaine brings a wonderful spontaneity to Pandro, the fiery-haired stoner that doesn’t have the same self-doubt as his costars, making him a breath of fresh air when people start worrying about their futures.

Theater about theater people often runs the risk of being self-indulgent, and there are a lot of conversations between characters that are struggling to stick with a career that has limited opportunities for advancement and little financial security. Morgan McNaught’s Melitta is a major player in this part of the plot, and she and Zack also have the added pressure of maintaining romantic relationships with people that don’t understand their dedication to their profession. The meat of the second half of the play is in showing how the opportunity for success in New York City impacts the characters and their relationships, but that gets lost in the sea of extraneous material.

There’s a relaxed, smooth flow in Andrew Hobgood’s staging of the first act that helps create a comfortable bond among the ensemble members, but the direction becomes less clear as the script becomes overstuffed. Zellnik’s sharp tonal shifts don’t make Hobgood’s job easy in the second half.

The actors play a big part in the development of New Colony plays, and a significant portion of the script came from “structured improvs.” Perhaps that’s where most of the second half material stemmed from? The first half plays like something that has been extensively workshopped and polished, but the second act is just plain sloppy.

Rating: ★★½

Orville and Wilbur Did It! continues through July 20th at Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 6pm.  Tickets are $10-$20, and are available online through (check for half-price tickets at More information at time: 1 hour 50 minutes, includes an intermission)

Alex Grelle, Evan Linder, Morgan McNaught, Joey Romaine, Kevin Stangler and Jessica London-Shields star in The New Colony's world premiere of "Orville and Wilbur Did It!" by David Zellnik and Eric Svejcar, directed by Andrew Hobgood. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Photos by Michael Brosilow 




Alex Grelle (X), Evan Linder (Zack), Jessica London-Shields (Jen), Morgan McNaught (Melitta), Josh Odor (Scraggs), Joey Romaine (Pandro), Kevin Stangler (Jasper), Daeshawna Cook, Stephanie Shum, Connor McNamara (understudies)

behind the scenes

Andrew Hobgood (director, co-artistic director), Sarah Watkins (scenic design), Kate Kamphausen (costume design), John Kelly (lighting design), Joshua Harris (sound design), Nic Belanger (props design). Danny Taylor (choreography), Geno Franco (production manager), Krystal Martinez (stage manager), Marrissa Miles-Coccaro (assistant director), Connor McNamara (script supervisor), Michael Brosilow (photos)


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Category: 2014 Reviews, New Colony, New Work, Oliver Sava, Signal Ensemble Theatre, World Premier

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