Saturday, April 16, 2022

Theatre AUM: "On the Verge"

Eric Overmyer's On the Verge [or the geography of yearning] hasn't been seen in Montgomery since the Alabama Shakespeare Festival's brilliant production a few decades ago; but Theatre AUM, under Neil David Seibel's carefully nuanced direction, has mounted a remarkable show that challenges actors and audience as they come to grips with the adventures of three Victorian women explorers trekking through terra incognita [the unknown] both in space and in time.

The challenges come in many guises: except for a quick costume change, each of the three women is on-stage for the intermissionless hour and forty minutes; the script is clever and at times erudite in its mix of colloquial and esoteric language, and there are countless anachronistic references in it; the women encounter a wide variety of bizarre characters whose appearances challenge credibility; their journey begins in 1888 and takes them to 2022; popular culture references bridge through the time periods; and the play presents themes about independent women, the risks we take in our quest for knowledge, and how we contribute to the future of the human race -- in short, the actors have to be at the top of their game, and audiences need to pay strict attention to all the details that pass by so quickly.

Youthful Alex [Yahzane Palmer] often confuses the meanings of words and is curious about new opportunities for women; Fanny [Tabitha Neyerlin] is the more traditionally proper Victorian woman; Mary [Karian Warrington] documents everything and is the most used to traveling solo; together, this trio serves to compliment each other, bringing out the best in their companions while developing their mutual means to press forward despite the obstacles in their way.

The encounters with several characters [Overmyer's original plan was to have a single actor play all the roles, though in the AUM production they are distributed among individual actors] drive them forward from 1888 to 1955 to today, challenging their beliefs and either assisting or placing obstacles in their way.

Mike Winkelman's multi-leveled set is complimented by Val Winkelman's period and quirky costumes and Brandon Baggin's evocative sound design; together with an array of props and witty and informative [though uncredited] projections, they complete the collaborative project.

There is hope at the end of the women's journey through terra incognita, and while we might not know what lies ahead, we are continually on the verge of discovery -- about the world and about ourselves -- and that is exciting.