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David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Wonder of the World,” directed by Big Idea Theater company member Jessica Berkey, sparks the audience through unexpected laughter-filled twists and turns, as the seven-crew cast brings the quirky characters to life.
Energetic and vibrant Shannon Mahoney, Big Idea Theater managing director, plays the main character, Cass Harris, who after ditching her husband to fulfill a bucket list after a mysterious discovery in his sweater drawer, finds herself in a bus on the way to Niagara Falls.
Sitting in the bus next to her, is alcoholic, suicidal Lois Coleman, who is played by Beth Edwards, also a company member.
Edwards has been an active actress locally for over 10 years and plays Coleman well. When she meets Harris on the bus, she is carrying an empty pickle barrel on her lap that she intends to use to plunge down Niagara Falls. The audience learns that Coleman came home to a letter from her husband in which he claims to be through with her due to her drinking problems.
Recently abandoned, Coleman stumbles across the stage, occasionally taking swigs from a flask and climbing in and out of the pickle barrel while emitting spontaneous remarks that elicit lots of laughs.
Harris continues her energetic conversation with Coleman, zipping from one topic to the next. Coleman’s failed attempts to ignore Harris on the bus land her as a sidekick. Two items checked off the bucket list: “get a sidekick” and “start a conversation with a complete stranger.”
The lights go out for a quick scene change, and the audience sees Kip Harris, played by Jouni Kirjola, frantically rewinding marriage footage, helplessly cuddled in a blanket on the couch. He has hired private investigators to search for his wife.
Kirjola has been active in the Sacramento area for 20 years, writing, directing and producing. He does an excellent job of portraying the facial expressions of Kip’s anxiety, rage and confusion after enduring his wife’s sudden abandonment.
The private investigators, Glen, played by Blair Leatherwood and Karla, played by Susan Madden, are an awesome duo that really brings comedy to the play.
(Image by: Jerry Branum ) Leatherwoods and Madden play a couple married for 38 years. They hop from one quirky job to another. Cass Harris meets the PI duo on a boat tour of the Niagara Falls, the same place were she meets Kip’s opposite, strong and dreamy Captain Mike, played by company member Justin D. Munoz.
Leatherwoods has performed with many local theaters, including Sacramento Shakespeare Festival, City Theatre and Synergy Stage as well as with independent films such as “Bad Faith,” “Nightbeats” and “Year.”
Mahoney has been active in theater locally for the past 14 years. She was awarded an Elly, one of the many annual community awards given by the Sacramento Area Regional Theater Alliance, for outstanding performance in “Wake Up, Jay! It’s Christmas!”
The talented Laura Kaya transforms herself in “Wonder of the World” and animates multiple distinct characters in the play, including Barbara, a hilarious, inexperienced helicopter pilot who is shakily driving over the falls when Cass Harris spills the secret to Coleman about what Kip Harris had been hiding from her.
Kaya has bachelor’s degrees in theater and psychology. She has performed in New York City and Las Vegas. Kaya has also worked behind the scenes as a writer, assistant director and in costuming.
Among her five characters, Kaya also plays a sextuplet therapist on parole, dressed like a clown, (because she was last working at a children’s hospital) and performs a hilarious group therapy session in which Cass Harris, continues to struggle with her indecisiveness and the search for meaning by intending to read destiny in situations that are merely coincidence.
All the characters except the waitresses and the pilot are connected by unusual coincidences that tie the cast to Niagara Falls, a symbol of birth, destruction and change.
Audience member Albert Mingo, 76, said he thought the show was action-packed, unique and funny.
“(It was) great: one of the funniest shows I have ever seen, ever,” Mingo said.
Business Analysts Rachel Resnick said she thought the performance was very creative and loved the clown and pilot characters that Kaya personified.
“This was much more lighthearted, much more on the absurd side of the scale,” Resnick said about the comparison of the performance to past shows she has seen.
“It was well-acted, it was well-directed, it was really good,” Resnick said.
This play is a must-see, and is performed at Big Idea Theater, 1616 Del Paso Blvd., through Sept. 3.
Image by: courtesy of Lixxim Photography