Safari of mirth
Brüka Theatre’s On the Verge is a delightful, dizzying trip through geography, history, dictionaries, feminism and time
Enter Brüka Theatre and be transported to the undiscovered world of Terra Incognita, circa 1888, situated somewhere east of Australia and someway west of Peru. The set of On the Verge or The Geography of Yearning, written by master of wordplay Eric Overmyer and directed by Michael Grimm, is decorated with nothing except black walls, black boxes and mirrors, and yet I can’t remember the last time I saw a play and became so wholly involved in the world on stage.
I was mesmerized (and sometimes enjoyably stupefied) by the performances of three very insightful women and one remarkably ridiculous man. The play is verbally dense with riddles, puns, rhymes and an eclectic mix of interesting syntax and quirky vocabulary.
On the Verge is about three “sister sojourners” who embark on an expedition to explore the varied landscape of Terra Incognita. I must admit that when the three women first appeared on stage in drab dresses, colored olive, ochre and beige, I thought I would be in for a journey as tedious as a real expedition of such magnitude would be. But the dialogue was some of the funniest and most bizarre I have ever heard.
The women’s banter carries them along treacherous ravines, through vine-ridden tropical forests and over snow-covered peaks, which they create through sophisticated pantomime. Their pacing and wit are as sharp as the machetes they use to whack through an imaginary jungle.
Mary (Mary Bennett) is the confident redhead, the focused leader of the group. Deep and dark jungles are her fancy, and she often reminisces about her treks through Africa. She has the heart of an explorer, as wells as a background in anthropology.
A whimsical discussion between Mary and the lexically challenged blond trekker, Alexandra (Jamie Plunkett), ensues over whether wearing trousers during expeditions is appropriate, or whether it is too unladylike. Alexandra sides with trousers, while Mary recounts several situations in which her petticoat saved her from certain death.
Plunkett is charming as Alexandra, crafting a clever character even though she is plagued (and simultaneously graced) with the more dimwitted lines. She has a propensity for confusing words with those with similar spellings and completely different meanings. “I’m famous,” she says. “I mean I’m famished, not famous.”
The sophisticated brunette explorer, Fanny (Heather Edmiston), strives to be as prim as a princess while demonstrating an explorer’s vim and vigor. In fact, while dining with an amicable cannibal, Fanny dons a blond wig and a diamond tiara.
The women’s journeys are interrupted now and then with appearances from actor Lewis Zaumeyer, playing a cannibal who has inherited characteristics of a Frenchman he once ate. He also plays Mr. Coffee, an eccentric Chinese fortuneteller, and a yeti who the women fawn over, mistaking him for a baby yeti.
The plot of On the Verge thickens when the women discover a fascinating artifact—a button that reads, “I Like Ike.” Instead of traversing geography, they begin to move forward in time, coming across such exciting archaeological discoveries as eggbeaters, Cool Whip and jacuzzis. There is an interesting juxtaposition between where the women have come from and where they are going. The future proves to be a precarious thing.
“I have seen the future," Mary says, "and it is slang."