Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Wonderland Wives
Nearly Naked Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of Of Mice and Men, 42nd Street, and Twelfth Night


Nathalie Cadieux and David Nelson
Photo by Laura Durant
"And they lived happily ever after" is a statement often made at the end of fairy tales and Disney animated films to proclaim just what happened to those fantasyland princesses who finally found their prince. But, according to playwright Buddy Thomas, it turns out that everyone doesn't live so happily ever after in Wonderland. His Wonderland Wives, receiving its world premiere in a sassy production from Nearly Naked Theatre, takes those well-known Disney princesses and turns them into desperate housewives in this very R-rated comedy. The end result is silly, campy fun with some delicious catty barbs, a talented cast, and a funny story.

Thomas includes the following Disney princesses in his play: Snow White, Cinderella, Belle (from Beauty and the Beast), and Briar Rose (aka Sleeping Beauty). As the story begins, here is the current fate of our beloved ladies: Snow's husband went out for a bucket of milk six years ago and never came back; turns out he's shacked up with the Three Little Pigs. Rose has been in rehab. Belle has had enough of the Beast and his lazy ways. And, while he returned to his human princely form, there is still some "beast" left in him (just one result of this is that, when Belle was pregnant, she ended up delivering not a baby but a litter of pups). Cindy's husband is just out of jail after being imprisoned on a slew of charges and while he was away Cindy put on a few pounds. As one of her friends states, after not seeing her in a long time, "You look like you ate Cinderella."

The plot of the comedy focuses on Cindy's attempt to get back at her friends once her philandering husband ends up in bed with them. She enlists the aid of the Evil Queen from the Snow White tale to help her get revenge. But alas, as in most fairy tales, nothing goes the way one plans and Thomas' play is filled will enchanting characters and witty one-liners that play off of and lampoon these well-known characters and stories. While some of the comical bits overtake the plot in the second act, it is still a charming and often hilarious show.

Previously, Nearly Naked presented Thomas' Devil Boys From Beyond and based on the success of that production Thomas granted them the world premiere of his newest show. The gifted cast for this production ensure every comic zinger lands. Director Damon Dering, with Thomas' permission, has cast three talented men who appear in drag as Cindy, Belle, and the Evil Queen. Those three, Matthew R. Harris, Bill Dyer and Terre Steed, are skilled comical actors who not only know how to get a laugh, but are gifted drag performers who understand the requirements needed to not just be campy or over the top, but deliver well-rounded portrayals of these women. With every arched eyebrow and expressive glance these "ladies" wring every joke, one liner, and catty comeback for all they're worth.

They are equally matched by Nathalie Cadieux and Laura Anne as Snow and Rose. Cadieux is simply hilarious as the crazed Snow who has now become "a garden variety tart." Her high pitched, musical laugh is comically delicious as it superbly echoes the one from the Disney film. Anne is enchanting as the sexy, uppity Rose and David Nelson is appropriately, and hilariously, two-dimensional as both the Beast and Prince Charming. His continued need to pose and flex his muscles is a nice touch. Steed also gets to play several other characters, including the back-talking, insult-hurling Magic Mirror, and he makes each part unique.

Dering's direction makes the many comical one-liners and visual gags pop while also getting humorous performances from his cast. Kenneth Anthony's set design is serviceable and includes some fantastic fantasy-inspired elements from scenic artist Paul Wilson. The colorful and creative costumes by Douglas Loynd and Steed's impressive hair and make-up designs play off the well-known film imagery for the princesses.

Thomas' play, while a bit long and unfocused in the second act, amounts to mindless fun that elicits plenty of laughter via the comical zingers and humorous adult situations that he puts these beloved figures in. Nearly Naked Theatre's production is a comical hoot filled with some saucy lines and sexy moments and a truly talented cast.

Wonderland Wives runs through April 23rd, 2016, with performances at Phoenix Theatre's Hardes Little Theatre at 100 E. McDowell in Phoenix. Tickets can be purchased by calling (602) 254-2151 or at nearlynakedtheatre.org.

Director: Damon Dering
Stage Manager: Joanne Gregg
Scenic Design: Kenneth Anthony
Scenic Artistry: Paul Wilson
Lighting Design: Clare Burnett
Sound Design: Patti Swartz
Costume Design: Douglas Loynd
Properties Design: Jay Templeton & Ralph Roberts
Hair & Make-Up Design: Terre Steed

Cast:
Snow: Nathalie Cadieux
Briar Rose: Laura Anne Kenney
Cindy: Matthew Harris
Belle: Bill Dyer
Beast/Charming: David Nelson
Godmother/Evil Queen/Alice/Magic Mirror: Terre Steed


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