Review: ON THE VERGE at The Commonweal Theatre

By: Oct. 08, 2019
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Review: ON THE VERGE at The Commonweal Theatre

The Commonweal Theatre's ON THE VERGE

The Commonweal Theatre Company in tiny Lanesboro, Minnesota, takes us on a journey - along with the three extremely intrepid female explorers - into the late 19th century and beyond. In many ways ON THE VERGE is a play about language, and this reviewer appreciated the glossary of terms in the program. (The word 'peregrinations' needs to be brought back into more common use). There is also a fair amount of witty wordplay amongst the ladies, and one of them - the youngest, Alexandra - is fascinated with how words sound and feel and fit together and lead to unexpected meanings.

Each of the women has a slightly different perspective on the whys and wherefores of exploration. For Mary, the anthropologist, the focus is on science and data and professional recognition in the world of men. Played by Betti Battocietti, Mary is invariably calm and grounded firmly on 'terra incognita' (unknown land). Fanny, who has left her husband behind, is hungry for adventure, experiencing new and exciting places whether they be jungles or frozen tundra. Commonweal veteran Adrienne Sweeney is the witty and wistful Fanny, who dreams of her husband and writes him letters while listening to the distant roar of lions. Alexandra is obsessed with the mystical and magical in the far reaches of the earth, and believes she has seen many fantastical happenings. Special kudos to Elizabeth Dunn for portraying the colorful Alex with flare and abandon. The women form a kind of liberated triumvirate with shared interests and mutual respect, but lacking deep emotional connection.

The fourth cast member, Brandt Roberts, plays a wide variety of characters who reveal to the audience that the lady explorers are moving not only through space but through time - several decades, in fact. His comic turns are very nicely done. Also, a special shout out to Justin Hooper for a beautiful and imaginative set design, especially the large central sundial set piece and the illusion of the ladies climbing a mountain with ropes.

So, what do Mary, Fanny, and Alex make of the hints the future is sending them through a strange 'osmosis'? Burma Shave, Red China, Mr. Coffee? Alex early on has shocked the fairly unflappable Fanny and Mary by having worn trousers under her skirts in the past for climbing and navigating gorges. (Fanny deplores this: "women wearing trousers just adds more masculinity to the world." Alex maintains that trousers "are the future"). Will they just accept the future or truly embrace it? Where each of them lands in space and time at the end is true to their characters, but still comes as a surprise.

Other credits: Director Michael Bigelow Dixon, Stage Managers Kelsey Heathcote and Lacey Szerlip, Assistant Stage Managers Matt Donahue and Jodi Rushing, Costume Designer Janis Martin, Lighting Designer Thomas White, Props Designer Anna Hill, Sound Designer Kelsey Heathcote, Assistant Sound Designer Caroline Hawthorne, Choreographer Betti Battocietti.

ON THE VERGE plays through November 10th. For tickets and information, visit