Some questions are hard to answer. Some plays are hard to define. After watching a modern version of ancient “Hamlet,” a sophisticated audience, for example, might ask themselves why the character of Hamlet was actually play acted by . a “blue light.”
With its latest play “Wait!” GCC’s theater arts department takes a critical glance at its own genre and its artistic expressions.
“Wait!” (premiered in 2003 in Cleveland) by playwright Julie Jensen is extraverted, original and loud and tries to illuminate theater’s backstage aspects in a unusual approach.
While it is not the traditional play with beginning, middle, climax and end, the contemporary “Wait!” rather presents a stream of recollection of the main character.
The play revolves around Wendy Burger (played by Rachelle Horak), a young, naive and reserved girl who lives with her alcoholic father, Dad (played by R.B. Dilanchian), in an old UPS truck and dreams of becoming an actress.
To fulfill her father’s glamorous visions, shy Wendy prepares herself by passionately holding pretended audiences in the back of the old truck.
Throughout the play the contained girl tries to survive in an environment of outgoing and overdramatic actors and actresses.
Anytime difficult situations arise, wide-eyed and usually hesitating Wendy takes a deep breath, breaks the yelling, and announces, “Hush! Here’s a little show for you.”
Theater seems to be Wendy’s way of escaping from life and, in the beginning, a rather pitiful attempt.
Through the play however, the brown-eyed girl in army boots and a men’s shirt receives her glamorous opportunity: a role in a modern version of Hamlet, who in this case is represented as a “blue light.”
Although she is now on the stage of the town’s old opera house, when the curtain closes, Wendy finds herself in the same sad and ironic state of mind she had been in before. She realizes that theater is as evanescent as the people in her life. “Next time you look, it will be gone,” she speaks her last sentence about the old theater to the audience.
Matt Foyer, who also directed “The Comedy of Errors” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, arranged “Wait!” with many smart side effects and well organized shifts.
Moreover, “Wait!” presents an experienced cast. Especially interesting is that three of the four actors take multiple roles.
Dilanchian, for example, plays Wendy’s pitiable, yet loving Dad. He also plays the outgoing actor Lu, Dad’s enemy. Finally he steps into the clothes of the Armenian macho Hazar.
In a matter of seconds Dilanchian switches from across-the-stage-strutting Lu into the broken-and-drunk Dad, lying on the stage to be comforted by his daughter. Through it all the young actor excels and emphasizes the unique points in each one of the character.
Equally skillfully, Rachelle Horak plays the rather unemotional Wendy. She stands out with reserved speech and body language that contrast her environment.
Dominika Ossowask plays “O Vixen My Vixen,” a rather naãve and superficial actress. She successfully involves the audience by her plain jokes and reoccurring choice of unintelligent yet overdramatic language and gestures.
As well convincing is the acting of Modesto (played by Mary Sullivan), Dad’s new girlfriend who works as a butcher. Forcefully, she floats through the audience and touches the spectators’ hands and legs while she holds a cigarette stump in her mouth and brags about herself and “meat.”
Performed in the department’s little studio theater, “Wait!” is very contiguous to the audience. It also arranges its setting in an interesting way: tables, an old armor and other equipment floating up and down the ceiling as the scenes shift. On occasion even a box of Fruit Loops cereal comes down.
The play besides shines with some smart lighting effects that emphasize the shifting moods of Wendy’s emotions.
Unfortunately, “Wait!” gives much room for unnecessary vulgar language which makes it “for mature audience only.”
Also, the open-ended plot shows lack of clarity and leaves the audience with a feeling of wonder about what Wendy’s point was in the last two hours. Was it merely that stage life is hard? Or maybe that a girl raised in confusion simply ends up confused again?
Chair of the theater department Ken Gray, who is familiar with the feminist playwright, chose the play because he wanted strong parts for women.
On the other hand, the script seems to degrade men by showing them in a particularly bad and pitiful light.
Though “Wait!” entertains well and makes the audience laugh, it does so at the expense of showing stereotypes like the Armenian Hazar or the Rumanian Jen-ya who are depicted as an unintelligent macho or or cold-hearted couple.
Nevertheless, by choosing “Wait!,” the second new contemporary play this year, GCC’s stage should be commended for its courage to try new plays which keeps theater alive.
The play’s excellent cast and convincing presentation manage to polish the rather unclear plot and elevate it to being an entertaining theater play.
“Wait!” will be on stage till April 10, Thursdays through Saturdays 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.. Reservation are recommended. For more information or to make reservations, call (818) 240-1000, ext. 5618.
Rating: * * * (out of four).