By Steve Martin
Directed by Josh Glover
Scenic Design - Josh Glover
Costume Design - Samantha Rodriguez
Sound Design - Alex Worthington
Stage Manager - Amber McCord
Ted Wold - Dad
Diane Casey Box - Mom
Nicole Stewart - Sis
Christopher Eastland - Son
Female Voice - Elizabeth Van Winkle
Premier, Choirmaster, Roger - John M. Flores
Reviewed Performance 7/15/2011
Reviewed by Mary L. Clark, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
After a brief intermission where the audience went to see the sun set over the lake or viewed selected artist's interpretations of the festival's plays in the gallery, next up was Steve Martin's absurdist, critical commentary, W.A.S.P. Of course an acronym for White Anglo Saxon Protestant, Martin wrote this one act depicting the "traditional WASP values" of the 1950's in the United States, the time period in which he (and I) grew up.
Using symbolism and characterizations, Martin humorously denounced and parodied the "typical" two parents, two children "50's household", the last decade of these traditional values.
In this average WASP family, Dad was the dominant head of the house and everything he said was to be taken as the final word though in truth he had unspoken doubts and regrets. Mom was the over-achieving homemaker and was continually ignored under the aspect of gender inequality predominate in WASP culture. Son was subordinate to his dad, and absorbed all he said and did while longing for the affection his dad could not provide. Sis had all the makings of being her mother with unrealistic fantasies of her life and low-self esteem issues with men. Different "voices" came to some of the family in their attempt to understand and discover themselves.
Full of symbolism, Martin added Premier, Son's imaginary alien "voice" which, to me, was also a send up on the space age that began in the 1950's. Female Voice came to Mom with sage yet restricting advice. A funny scene had Mom, Son and Sis speaking with British accents, drinking tea and eating British food served by a British butler - Martin was reminding us that the WASP culture originated in England and immigrated here in the 17th century.
Director Josh Glover took a comic book, animated style in depicting the characters in W.A.S.P. The family had exaggerated motions and facial expressions. Costumes by Samantha Rodriguez used bright colors, patterns like argyle, and misplaced designs like Mom's evening gown worn every day. Alex Worthington's sounds of people eating while the actors ate off empty plates had the audience giggling.
I had difficulty commenting on the actor's abilities as they were merely reflecting the characterizations as written by Martin as opposed to finding the different levels of the character on their own. Ted Wold held Dad on a high energy one-noted level. Mom as played by Diane Casey Box was absurdly and sadly silly with no depth. Sis as played by Nicole Stewart was Gidget cute and as sadly inane as her mom. Christopher Eastland's Son had brief moments of realistic yearning for attention amongst his imitation of a young boy. John M. Flores played Premier, Choirmaster and Roger the butler adequately. Elizabeth Van Winkle's one onstage scene as Female Voice had the only moments of real clarity, reiterating to Mom that no matter how much she fantasized her life it would a not change.
I loved Martin's intellectual humor in WASP and could clearly hear him speaking through these characters. But I had some difficulty enjoying this play as I felt Martin was too clever and pretentious for his own good. Jumping from symbolism to symbolism, it quickly left his criticism of the dominant cultural value of our country, and one he (and I) were raised on and became more a thesis on how smart he was. Maybe the subject and the characters were too close to home for me as it was for Martin but very soon I was finding it not very funny.
W.A.S.P made for some nice social satire, and with some sitcom funny scenes and characters was a pleasant ending to a good evening of theatre.
After performances on Fridays and Saturdays, travel under the Bath House to FIT Underground. Located in the former boat launching area, this underground venue hosts live music, drink and food truck delicacies. I wasn't able to stay but it all looked wonderfully inviting and I plan to stay late when I return.
Plays Saturday, July 23rd at 5 pm; Thursday, July 28th at 8 pm and Saturday, August 6th at 8 pm.