News

Residents Demand Answers at Council Meeting on Police Killing of Sayed Faisal

News

Bob Odenkirk Named Hasty Pudding Man of the Year

News

Harvard Kennedy School Dean Reverses Course, Will Name Ken Roth Fellow

News

Ex-Provost, Harvard Corporation Member Will Investigate Stanford President’s Scientific Misconduct Allegations

News

Harvard Medical School Drops Out of U.S. News Rankings

On the Verge of Bursting the Corset Stays

On the Verge directed by Scott Schwartz at the Loeb Mainstage October 27-29

By Erica L. Werner

"Ladies, shall we whack the bush?"

"Hooper do!"

"What is life without a loofah?"

This is the travelling through time. In the current Loeb Mainstage production, Eric Overmyer's On the Verge (or The Geography of Yearning), three game but proper ladies set out in 1888 to explore Terra Incognita, and end up eating Cool Whip in Nicky's nightclub in 1955. On the way, they find themselves in many a humorous situation--most of which turn on the juxtaposition of a Victorian lady with almost anything especially - and dispense marry an anachronistic bonmot.

On the Verge, first performed in 1985, is not a great play; at times, it's downright idiotic. However, it has its moments of humor, especially in the second half, and these are brought to the fore in this production by some good acting and the able direction of Scott Schwartz.

The play succeeds when it lets itself go, as in the final scenes in Nicky's nightclub, wherein J.C. Wolfgang Murad gives an exuberant performance as Nicky, a slick and spangled nightclub owner. Nicky sports Dean hair and the ivories with the flamboyance of Liberace; he's funny to us, but a heart-breaker to the trio from yesteryear. There's a great scene where Fanny (Esme Howard), loosened up after a dip in a jacuzzi, abandons her corsets for a slinky cocktail gown and trips the light fantastic in Nicky's arms, to the tune of "Sophisticated Lady."

On the Verge is on shakier ground when it seems to be commenting on society, as it is all too often.

As Fanny, Mary (Rachel Siegel), and Alexandra (Jessie Cohen) near our century they encounter the detritus of the '50s--egg beaters, "I Like lke" buttons, phonograph records, a big inflated banana, etc.

Combined with the self-conscious Orientalism and discussion thereof that crops up in the first half of the play--Mary: "English is a vehicle, and its engine is empire." Fanny: "Stuff!"--we're primed for a critique of capitalism, or for a semiotical analysis of post-war America. Yet the play's treatment of kitsch goes no farther than to make the point that '50s consumer products would look pretty weird to Victorian dames. For example, during their voyage through time the intrepid adventurers keep coming across egg-beaters. "Totem!" "Talisman!" "Taboo!" they conjecture, and develop the practice of spinning the beaters at one another. They seem to be voiding the egg-beaters of signifying power and revealing them as empty signs, which makes no sense. Yet the two-hour kitsch fest invites this sort of analysis.

It's also unclear why the action stops in 1955, as opposed to continuing farther into the future, or coming closer to the present. Throughout this section, hints are given of things to come--computers, modern TVs, etc,--so one wonders what is special about that particular year. Also, why are Fanny, Mar, and Alexandra on a quest to hunt down Eisenhower? If they are emissaries from the past, what is the message they have to impart?

The play's staging suffers from the nonsensical directions written into the script. The presence of the four extras who comprise the "later generation" (Anna Blair, Anataria Marie Brown, Jennifer Joel, and Flora Prescott) is largely inexplicable. For most of the play they sit around and watch the main action, dressed in present-day garb; are they meant to frame the spectacle as a play within a play?

The acting is for the most part good; however, the roles lend themselves to overacting because they are more form than substance and rely for characterization on idiosyncratic turns of phrase. Nonetheless, Howard, Siegel and Murad, who in addition to Nicky appears as various bit characters, give very strong performances, and manage to resist their characters' tendencies towards irritating extravagance.

On the Verge could have been corseted by its mediocre script, but the director and actors in this production manage to burst the stays.

On the Verge, first performed in 1985, is not a great play; at times, it's downright idiotic. However, it has its moments of humor, especially in the second half, and these are brought to the fore in this production by some good acting and the able direction of Scott Schwartz.

The play succeeds when it lets itself go, as in the final scenes in Nicky's nightclub, wherein J.C. Wolfgang Murad gives an exuberant performance as Nicky, a slick and spangled nightclub owner. Nicky sports Dean hair and the ivories with the flamboyance of Liberace; he's funny to us, but a heart-breaker to the trio from yesteryear. There's a great scene where Fanny (Esme Howard), loosened up after a dip in a jacuzzi, abandons her corsets for a slinky cocktail gown and trips the light fantastic in Nicky's arms, to the tune of "Sophisticated Lady."

On the Verge is on shakier ground when it seems to be commenting on society, as it is all too often.

As Fanny, Mary (Rachel Siegel), and Alexandra (Jessie Cohen) near our century they encounter the detritus of the '50s--egg beaters, "I Like lke" buttons, phonograph records, a big inflated banana, etc.

Combined with the self-conscious Orientalism and discussion thereof that crops up in the first half of the play--Mary: "English is a vehicle, and its engine is empire." Fanny: "Stuff!"--we're primed for a critique of capitalism, or for a semiotical analysis of post-war America. Yet the play's treatment of kitsch goes no farther than to make the point that '50s consumer products would look pretty weird to Victorian dames. For example, during their voyage through time the intrepid adventurers keep coming across egg-beaters. "Totem!" "Talisman!" "Taboo!" they conjecture, and develop the practice of spinning the beaters at one another. They seem to be voiding the egg-beaters of signifying power and revealing them as empty signs, which makes no sense. Yet the two-hour kitsch fest invites this sort of analysis.

It's also unclear why the action stops in 1955, as opposed to continuing farther into the future, or coming closer to the present. Throughout this section, hints are given of things to come--computers, modern TVs, etc,--so one wonders what is special about that particular year. Also, why are Fanny, Mar, and Alexandra on a quest to hunt down Eisenhower? If they are emissaries from the past, what is the message they have to impart?

The play's staging suffers from the nonsensical directions written into the script. The presence of the four extras who comprise the "later generation" (Anna Blair, Anataria Marie Brown, Jennifer Joel, and Flora Prescott) is largely inexplicable. For most of the play they sit around and watch the main action, dressed in present-day garb; are they meant to frame the spectacle as a play within a play?

The acting is for the most part good; however, the roles lend themselves to overacting because they are more form than substance and rely for characterization on idiosyncratic turns of phrase. Nonetheless, Howard, Siegel and Murad, who in addition to Nicky appears as various bit characters, give very strong performances, and manage to resist their characters' tendencies towards irritating extravagance.

On the Verge could have been corseted by its mediocre script, but the director and actors in this production manage to burst the stays.

On the Verge is on shakier ground when it seems to be commenting on society, as it is all too often.

As Fanny, Mary (Rachel Siegel), and Alexandra (Jessie Cohen) near our century they encounter the detritus of the '50s--egg beaters, "I Like lke" buttons, phonograph records, a big inflated banana, etc.

Combined with the self-conscious Orientalism and discussion thereof that crops up in the first half of the play--Mary: "English is a vehicle, and its engine is empire." Fanny: "Stuff!"--we're primed for a critique of capitalism, or for a semiotical analysis of post-war America. Yet the play's treatment of kitsch goes no farther than to make the point that '50s consumer products would look pretty weird to Victorian dames. For example, during their voyage through time the intrepid adventurers keep coming across egg-beaters. "Totem!" "Talisman!" "Taboo!" they conjecture, and develop the practice of spinning the beaters at one another. They seem to be voiding the egg-beaters of signifying power and revealing them as empty signs, which makes no sense. Yet the two-hour kitsch fest invites this sort of analysis.

It's also unclear why the action stops in 1955, as opposed to continuing farther into the future, or coming closer to the present. Throughout this section, hints are given of things to come--computers, modern TVs, etc,--so one wonders what is special about that particular year. Also, why are Fanny, Mar, and Alexandra on a quest to hunt down Eisenhower? If they are emissaries from the past, what is the message they have to impart?

The play's staging suffers from the nonsensical directions written into the script. The presence of the four extras who comprise the "later generation" (Anna Blair, Anataria Marie Brown, Jennifer Joel, and Flora Prescott) is largely inexplicable. For most of the play they sit around and watch the main action, dressed in present-day garb; are they meant to frame the spectacle as a play within a play?

The acting is for the most part good; however, the roles lend themselves to overacting because they are more form than substance and rely for characterization on idiosyncratic turns of phrase. Nonetheless, Howard, Siegel and Murad, who in addition to Nicky appears as various bit characters, give very strong performances, and manage to resist their characters' tendencies towards irritating extravagance.

On the Verge could have been corseted by its mediocre script, but the director and actors in this production manage to burst the stays.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags