Eric Overmyer, best known for his work on such hit premium television series as The Wire, Treme, Boardwalk Empire, Bosch and more, is also an accomplished playwright. His quirky, whimsical play, On the Verge, or The Geography of Yearning, now in production at Little Fish Theatre, features three Victorian women adventurers on a journey into Terra Incognita. The nominal leader of the troop is Mary Baltimore (Holly Baker-Kreiswirth), whose passion in life is exploration. The hyper-conservative Fanny Cranberry (Presciliana Esparolini) is a buttoned-up moralist and the only one of the three that is married. The youngest of the trio, the charming, effervescent Alexandra Cafuffle (Branda Lock) is forever bubbling out a stream of words that don’t quite fit and sometimes border on the unsavory, an entertaining blend of malapropisms and mild Tourette syndrome.
As they hack their way through jungles, climb mountains, and ford streams, the intrepid women talk about their previous explorations and argue about such things as, for instance, the propriety of women wearing pants, a notion that horrifies Mary and Fanny and which Alex is all for, having experienced the joys of bicycle riding thus clad. She has also ridden horses wearing pants and thinks sidesaddle is ridiculous.
In their travels, they encounter strange objects that mystify them, flotsam from the future such as a hand-crank eggbeater, the first clue that perhaps something strange is going on. They also encounter others (all played with extraordinary gusto by Don Schlossman), men mostly, that an audience will clearly perceive as having slipped the bounds of time. Actually, the first clue that something strange is going on comes early in the play when the woman cannot agree if the current president is Garfield, McKinley, or Cleveland. This can be mystifying to an audience for a while, but the women are so delightful that it doesn’t matter and we come to understand that time and space is malleable in Terra Incognita and the future keeps impinging on the past. All questions are resolved in the second act. To make sure that the audience does not mistake the play for reality, a deeply resonant, God-like male voice (Jamieson Price) announces each of the twenty-two scenes of the play.
Director Richard Perloff keeps the pace brisk and the mood light as the cast morphs back and forth between group and individuals in a wonderfully choreographed manner. If you love bold theatricality, this is your show.
The scenic design by Angel Sandoval is necessarily Spartan. Eb Madry’s lighting makes good use of gobos (a screen in front of a lighting instrument that projects a pattern on the stage) to help create a sense of place. The costume design by Diana Mann is simply terrific. The women look to be every inch the bold explorers they portray. And the sound design by Ms. Baker-Kreiswirth, is, as usual with her, excellent.
I have been reviewing shows at Little Fish Theatre for more than two years now and I am always delighted in how the company consistently produces great plays that feature women in terrific roles, plays like Rapture, Blister Burn, The How and the Why, and The Ithaca Ladies Read Medea. Kudos, Little Fish!
On the Verge, or The Geography of Yearning runs in rotating rep with Boeing Boeing through October 19 at Little Fish Theatre, 777 South Centre Street in San Pedro.