Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Wild Party 
the stars shine at Constellation Theatre

Side Note—this week the Supreme Court  will hear a case (referred to as “Peaches”) —A  DC house party in the free-for-all culture that went wrong…arrests for “disorderly conduct”  …government sued for millions of dollars —Attorneys Generals from 26 states contend the D.C. Circuit ruling will have “vast consequences”  etc.

This is not that party but one back in the Roaring Twenties in NYC.  

You be the judge.

Dazzling from the get-go, The Wild Party is a visceral and immersive experience.  

Sensual to the max yet a strong moralistic fable.  

This is the story of two vaudeville performers —Queenie and Burrs—in a tangled relationship of sexual attraction and domestic abuse who give a party in which booze, drugs and sexual excess end in several tragedies.

Before the show even starts, one can admire the space designed by Scenic Designer Tony Cisek, which sets the party site—a 1920s New York City apartment within the intimate Source Theater.

Farrell Parker as Queenie makes her entrance through an artsy beaded doorway, in sparkling silver shoes and a pink lacy underwear.   Jimmy Mavrikes is Burrs, who makes the scene, is in a raggedy clown costume with a fake cherry nose.  

Once again, Costume Designer Erik Teague’s luminous outfits light up the Constellation stage,   at once evoking the fashions of the Roaring 20s but also giving a clue to the characters themselves.

Queenie convinces Burrs to throw the ultimate party and to invite a parade of colorful characters.   Kari Ginsburg as “the life of the party” is the loud and libidinous Kate who will stir the pot  by bring Ian Anthony Coleman as the dapper Mr. Black who doesn’t drink but can’t keep his eyes or his hands off of  Queenie.  Emily Zickler, is Mae alongside Calvin Malone as her prizewinning pugilist partner Eddie. 

Ilona Kessell as choreographer and Robb Hunter as Fight Choreographer, show their full force with the ranges
trom happy jazzy dances to close to death brawls.

 Returning Constellation favorites Christian Montgomery (Oscar d’Armano), Tiziano D’Affuso (Phil d’Armano), Carl Williams (Max) and Julia Klavans (Delores) are joined by newcomers Rachel Barlaam (Madeline True), Patricia “Pep” Targete (Nadine), and James Finley (Sam), and understudies Joshua Simon, AJ Whittenberger, Amy Maniscalco, and Meredith Eib.  They keep the party going
as it spins in all different directions. 

The fantastic team of creative collaborators includes  Walter “Bobby” McCoy for the first time as Constellation Music Director  along with a seven piece band and  Constellation newcomer Jason Schmitz  as the Sound Designer.

As background to the piece, The Wild Party is based on a 1928 book-length narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March, which was widely banned upon publication for its risqué content. 

The book inspired William Burroughs who discovered it
in a book store in 1938 and also a rather unsuccessful movie with Raquel Welsh in 1975. 

 But it was composer and lyricist Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family, Big Fish), who was  inspired to turn this steamy Prohibition Era poem into a sensational score with a mix of  jazz, vaudeville and gospel music.  His off-Broadway production in 2000, won several awards  and showcased several early-career Broadway stars including a pre-Wicked Idina Menzel. 

The story is definitely not for those looking for a light hearted sentimental tale of a bygone era.  It is strong stuff, but so well done, and with such talent that one wonders if there is not a future Broadway star in this Constellation cast. 

The Wild Party (to Oct. 29, 2017)
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Based on the Poem by Joseph Moncure March
Directed by Allison Arkell Stockman

(photo credit Daniel Schwartz)

Source Theatre 1835 14th St. NW, Washington DC 20009
Constellation Theatre Company