Sarah Jessica Parker is a frustrated housewife who seeks the purifying water of Niagara Falls in the New York City premiere of David Lindsay-Abaire's Wonder of the World, opening Nov. 1 at Manhattan Theatre Club's Stage I.
MTC, the Off-Broadway nonprofit, hot this past season with Broadway's Proof and The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, kicks off its 2001-2002 season with Wonder, directed by Christopher Ashley (Rude Entertainment, The Rocky Horror Show, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told). Lindsay-Abaire's Fuddy Meers, which bowed at MTC in the fall of 1999, arguably kicked off the company's current winning streak. The comedy was praised and subsequently transferred to a short-lived commercial run at the Minetta Lane Theatre, presaging the later transfers of Proof, Allergist's Wife and A Class Act.
Parker ("Sex and the City," Sylvia, Once Upon a Mattress) plays Cass, a wife who leaves her husband (Tudyk) when she discovers his secret sexual interest and goes in search of something new and different in Niagara Falls—one of the great wonders of the world. Armed with a "to-do list" that includes "learn Swedish, eat venison, witness an execution, drive cross country while wearing a large wig," Cass boards a bus and meets Lois (Nielsen), a suicidal alcoholic who plans to revenge herself on her disappeared husband by riding a pickle barrel over the falls. Cass crowns Lois her new sidekick (thus attaining one of the goals on her list), and later becomes entangled with a romantic boat captain (Chamberlin), a helicopter pilot with a fear of heights (Sedaris), a couples therapist who moonlights as a clown (Sedaris again) and a bickering couple of detectives disguised as honeymooners (Burke and Raymond). Internet chat rooms have been littered with comments about an outrageous comic plot point revealed just before the Act One curtain.
Ashley and set designer David Gallo have mounted the piece within a series of stage "windows," various cartoon ovals and rectangles opening in the darkness of Stage I to represent the interiors of a car, a helicopter, the cabin of a boat and a bus. Fuddy Meers was mounted in the more intimate Stage II. Wonder of the World had its world premiere May 22 July 16, 2000, by Washington DC's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Lindsay-Abaire told free-lance writer Brian Scott Lipton he rewrote the play following its DC run and had the MTC actors in mind when he refigured some aspects of the work. To view Lipton's feature on Playbill On-Line, click here.
Lindsay-Abaire (2001 Kesselring Prize winner for Kimberly Akimbo) is working on the screenplay of Fuddy Meers. Kimberly will be staged at MTC during the 2002-03 season.
Lindsay-Abaire's other plays include A Devil Inside and The Kitchen Sink Drama. His Kimberly Akimbo had a staging at South Coast Repertory Theatre.
Tickets are $45. MTC presents in its home at City Center, 131 W. 55th Street. For MTC information, call (212) 399-3030 or visit ManhattanTheatreClub.com. On MTC's Stage II is John Patrick Shanley's divorce comedy, Where's My Money?, opening Nov. 7.
— By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson